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Ruth Laredo, 67; Pianist Recorded Full Works of Scriabin, Rachmaninoff

May 28, 2005|Chris Pasles Times Staff Writer | Times Staff Writer

American pianist Ruth Laredo, who was known for groundbreaking recordings of the complete works of Scriabin and Rachmaninoff, died in her sleep Wednesday night at her New York City apartment. She was 67.

The cause of death was ovarian cancer, according to her sister, Rayna Kogan of West Bloomfield, Mich.

Laredo had been living with the disease for four years but was actively performing until several weeks ago. Her last appearance was May 6 at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in her popular, long-running performance-lecture series "Concerts With Commentary."

Laredo was often billed, especially early in her career, as "America's first lady of the piano." But she fumed at her talent being linked to gender. "I hate these labels," she said in a 1983 Times interview. "I'd like to be known as an American pianist. Of that I'm proud. But it's no longer unusual for women to play the big works of Rachmaninoff and Brahms."

Laredo was born Ruth Meckler in 1937 in Detroit. She studied piano with Rudolf Serkin at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She graduated in 1960 and that year married violinist Jaime Laredo, with whom she played in concert. They divorced in 1976.

Laredo made her professional orchestra debut with the American Symphony, led by Leopold Stokowski, in 1962, and her debut with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Pierre Boulez, in 1974.

In the 1970s, she recorded the entire Scriabin piano sonatas for the Connoisseur label and the complete solo works of Rachmaninoff on seven LPs for CBS Masterworks. After completing that set, she was asked by New York publisher C.F. Peters to prepare a complete edition of the composer's solo repertory. Laredo's discography includes more than 30 recordings.

She made a cameo appearance in Woody Allen's film "Small Time Crooks" in which the main characters attend one of her recitals.

In addition to her sister, Laredo is survived by a daughter, Jennifer Laredo of London, and one granddaughter.

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