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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > WESTSIDER RUGGIERO RICCI
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World's most-recorded violinist


It was Sunday, October 20, 1929. Four days later, on Black Thursday, Wall Street would be rocked by the biggest losses in its history and the nation would be plunged into its greatest crisis since the Civil War. But October 20 still belonged to the Roaring Twenties, and on that date the most highly publicized event to take place in Manhattan was a violin concert by a 9-year-old wunderkind named Ruggiero Ricci, who delivered a flawless performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and was lauded as a genius by the city's leading music critics. That concert made Ricci's career; in the 10 years that followed, the boy virtuoso earned an annual salary higher than that of the president of the United States.

The story might have ended there, but unlike most prodigies, who burn themselves out early, Ruggiero Ricci has continued to grow in stature as an artist. Since the 1940s he has been considered one of the greatest living violinists, and, with more than 500 recordings to his credit, he is the most-recorded soloist, instrumental or vocal, in the world today. Especially in demand abroad, he has made five trips to Australia and three to the Soviet union, where he was obliged to play nine encores at his debut appearance. Twenty of his concerts in West Germany were sold out a year in advance, and more than a dozen of his South American tours have been sellouts as well.

"I travel most of the year, except maybe a month off in the summer," says Ricci, a short, good-humored man of 60 with large, sparkling eyes, jet black brows, and a soft, slightly accented voice that sounds as if he were born in Europe. He sits curled up in a corner of the couch in his magnificent Westside apartment. "I dislike to travel. In the old days, there were a lot of airplane breakdowns, and we were always hung up in airports waiting for them to fix the plane. Today they have all these hijacking searches. You have to go through the machines; they have these enormous lines. And when you get to the hotel, there's a line a mile long."

He believes that Russian audiences are "the best public in the world. They don't applaud between the movements, like they do in New York. … It's always interesting to visit a place for the first time. I don't want to go to Russia so much anymore. We found out it's boring. There's nothing to do. And it's not much fun. There's no tipping, so the hotel service is very bad. It takes an hour to get breakfast; you can sit there and be completely ignored by the waiter. To make a telephone call: i............
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