The highly respected Austrian pianist Paul Badura-Skoda, cherished for his recordings, has died at the age of 91.
Born in Vienna on October 6, 1927, Badura-Skoda studied with Viola Thern and Otto Schulhof in his hometown, before training with Edwin Fischer in Switzerland. His first taste of success came in 1947, when he won first prize in the Austrian Music Competition, and he graduated from the Conservatory of the City of Vienna in 1948 with the highest distinctions in both piano and conducting. The following year saw him engaged as a soloist by both Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan for concerts in Vienna, and in 1950 he stepped in for Edwin Fischer at the Salzburg Festival at the eleventh hour, for which he became something of an overnight success.
This success was bolstered by Badura-Skoda’s prolific recording career, which began in earnest in the 1950s with the introduction of the LP. These recordings attracted a capacity audience to the pianist’s first recital in New York, a remarkable achievement given the era. His international career began in 1952, when Badura-Skoda toured Australia, followed by year-long tours of North and Latin America. As a conductor, he led the Vienna Symphony Orchestra’s chamber ensemble on a tour of Italy in 1956, followed by a number of concerts and recordings. Other early career milestones includes his first tour of Japan in 1959-60, which he returned to throughout his career, and his first tour of the Soviet Union in 1964. Badura-Skoda was the first Western pianist to play in China after the end of the Cultural Revolution.
Although he was closely associated with the Viennese classical repertoire, Badura-Skoda enjoyed an extensive repertoire that encompassed Chopin, Ravel and Frank Martin. He is known as the only pianist to have recorded the complete Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert piano sonatas on both modern as well as historical pianos.
Badura-Skoda was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 1993 and a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres in 1997.
Along with his wife, Eva Badura-Skoda, the pianist was prized for his scholarly contributions, which included valued editions of works by Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.