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The French pianist Madeleine Malraux, born in 1914, is still giving recitals of the music of Erik Satie and, as she nears her centenary, this journal covering 1944 to 2011 (its title derives from a marking in Satie’s Gnossienne No 2) presents her compelling trajectory. It demonstrates how pianism can help people to survive the challenges of life, from personal tragedy to a rotten marriage. Malraux’s statuesque performing presence onstage at George Balanchine’s 1970s ballet festivals in homage to Stravinsky and Ravel is still recalled by Manhattanites.

A student of Marguerite Long, Malraux wed the cultural czar and megalomaniac André Malraux. She serenely deflected condescension from her husband’s friends, such as the novelist André Gide and pianist Jacques Février. After her marriage crumbled in the 1960s, she brushed up her technique with Adele Marcus (1906-1995), a former student of Josef Lhévinne and Artur Schnabel who became a Juilliard School doyenne and mentor of Stephen Hough, Byron Janis and others. Through an often tempestuous life, during which she has endured tragedies such as the deaths of her first husband – a French Resistance martyr – and two of her sons in a car crash, Malraux has found spiritual solace in piano music by Bach, Debussy, Chopin, Poulenc and the Russians (a CD was released by K617 in 1999). Merely thinking about keyboard delights could cheer her, as at a particular low point in May 1965 when she noted: ‘Tonight New York welcomes Vladimir Horowitz’s return to the Carnegie Hall stage. How I’d like to be there!’ Malraux has missed little in her extraordinary, long life.

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Piano International, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing