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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: January 2014

Ralph Kirkpatrick

from Snippets


I was familiar with Ralph Kirkpatrick's name from the music programs of Hungarian Radio. His recordings were broadcast about as frequently as those of Wanda Landowska, Zuzana Ruůžičková, and George Malcolm. In those years—the late sixties and early seventies—I was addicted to the harpsichord and dreamed of buying an instrument so that I could play it at home.

I was particularly taken with his renditions of Domenico Scarlatti's sonatas, without knowing at the time that Kirkpatrick had written the composer's biography and published a critical edition of his complete works. Kirkpatrick was Scarlatti's Köchel, so to speak: his numbering system has long been universally accepted as authoritative.

Before flying on holiday to Dubrovnik in 1973, I found out that the summer festival was featuring Ralph Kirkpatrick on its program. I took my tape recorder with me and on arrival contacted the artist at his hotel, the Excelsior. Lying just outside the massive medieval walls of that city of marble streets, ancient monasteries, and narrow alleys, the Excelsior was the most elegant place you could stay at.

All I can remember of our meeting is his friendliness, his ready smile, and the fluent and easy manner of his talk. Our interview appeared in my book of interviews in 1979—I am translating extracts from it back into English.

In asking Ralph Kirkpatrick about Wanda Landowska, I soon realized that his reaction was similar to that of cellists if you asked them about Pablo Casals: admiration was mixed with irritation.