Former child prodigy Ruth Slenczynska is now 97 and still performing. She recently released a new album for Decca Classics called My Life in Music . And what a life! The American pianist tells Rebecca Franks about studying with Rachmaninov, befriending Samuel Barber and taking advice from Arthur Rubinstein, as she learned to put the music first and connect with the audience.

Ruth Slenczynska
Ruth Slenczynska. Photo © Meredith Truax/Decca Classics

When Ruth Slenczynska first met Sergei Rachmaninov, she was scared. No surprise, perhaps. She was a girl of just nine years old, while he was a world-famous composer-pianist, dubbed the “six-foot scowl” by Stravinsky. “He opened the door and he stretched out his long, long, long hand with his...