“I have always played, with great pleasure, the Steinway instruments, which are the faithful companions of my career.”
Clara Haskil (b. 1865) was a Romanian classical pianist, renowned as an interpreter of the classical and early romantic repertoire. She was particularly noted for her performances and recordings of Mozart. She was also noted as an interpreter of Beethoven, Schumann, and Scarlatti.
Well regarded as a chamber musician, Haskil collaborated with many, including but not limited to George Enescu, Géza Anda, Isaac Stern, and Arthur Grumiaux, with whom she played her last concert. While renowned primarily as a violinist, Grumiaux was also a fine pianist, and he and Haskil would sometimes swap instruments. She played as a soloist under the baton of many conductors as well.
One of her most prominent performances as a soloist with an orchestra is a recording of Mozart's Piano Concert No. 20 in D minor, K. 466 and No. 24 in C minor, K. 491 in November 1960 with the Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux conducted by Igor Markevitch. This recording features an unusually slow, pensive performance of K. 466's third movement and a very subtle, highly lyrical and yet, in some way, vigorous playing of K. 491's second movement.
Haskil died from injuries received through a fall at the staircase of a Brussels train station. She was due to play at a concert with Arthur Grumiaux the following day. She was aged 65.
An esteemed friend of hers, Charlie Chaplin, described her talent by saying, "In my lifetime I have met three geniuses; Professor Einstein, Winston Churchill, and Clara Haskil. I am not a trained musician but I can only say that her touch was exquisite, her expression wonderful, and her technique extraordinary."
In a 2013 interview, Pope Francis mentioned Haskil as one of his favorite musicians, especially when performing Mozart.
The Clara Haskil International Piano Competition is held biennially in her memory. The brochure reads: "The Clara Haskil Competition was founded in 1963 to honour and perpetuate the memory of the incomparable Swiss pianist, of Romanian origin, who was born in Bucharest in 1895. The Competition welcomes young pianists from all over the world, who pursue the musical ideal that is inspired by Clara Haskil and which will always remain exemplary."