CARNEGIE HALL DEBUT and CURTIS INSTITUTE OF MUSIC
After a lengthy tour of Europe, in 1927 Ezra made a sensational Carnegie Hall debut in New York at the age of twelve and soon after became the youngest ever student to enter the famous Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. There he studied with JOSEF HOFMANN, Leopold Godowsky, Joseph Lhevinne, amongst many other great musicians whose names are legendary in the history of music.
Grateful thanks to the Carnegie Hall Archives Department for their invaluable help in supplying these images.
It was a ‘Golden Age’. With Hofmann as Dean and a star-studied faculty that included Carlos Salzedo (harp) , Fritz Reiner (conducting) Efrem Zimbalist (violin), Lea Luboschutz (violin) among Ezra’s classmates at Curtis were Leonard Bernstein, Gian Carlo Menotti, Samuel Barber and Shura Cherkassky, Lukas Foss, Leonard Rose and Leonard Pennario. Two years later at the age of 15, Ezra won the Philadelphia Orchestra Competition when he was chosen from 6000 young musicians to be the first soloist to appear with Leopold Stokowski at the inaugural Youth Concert of the Philadelphia Orchestra. By the time he was 16, Ezra Rachlin was invited by Hofmann to join the distinguished academic staff as the youngest member of the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music.
In 1937 SERGEI RACHMANINOV who had heard Ezra play in New York, spent considerable time with him rehearsing his 3rd Piano Concerto. The great composer chose Ezra to take the concerto to Europe on an extensive tour of all the major European capitals. The concerto was so new that Ezra travelled with the orchestral parts. In some cases, the orchestras had to sight-read them and some interesting amusing diversions occurred. Ezra loved to recall how during one performance, he found himself whistling the missed entrance of the trumpet in the final movement!
BUDAPEST – Ujsag, Dec 7, 1937
Ezra Rachlin, the American virtuoso performed Rachmaninof’s Piano Concerto in D minor with the most polished technique which is almost unparalleled. A capacity audience greeted this excellent pianist with salvos of applause. The success of this interesting artist was so great that even after five encores, the public would not let him go.”
Returning to the United States, his fame had preceded him and his agent had many concert tours booked. A full schedule of Community Concerts all over the United States brought fame and national acclaim. Devastatingly handsome, the stage door was always buzzing with young feminine admirers and Ezra’s professional and social life was full. But basically he was gregarious and in spite of the adulation of his young admirers, Ezra found the life of a pianist lonely. “There was just Me and the Monster” he recalled. He made the momentous decision to switch to conducting and began studying conducting with Fritz Reiner, whose extremely demanding course was also being studied by Leonard Bernstein. Soon Ezra was assisting Reiner with operatic and symphonic concerts. His fascination with conducting led him, after a farewell Command Performance at the White House for President and Mrs. Roosevelt, to abandon his career as a pianist and become a conductor.