Colette Maze, Pianist Who Started Recording in Her 80s, Dies at 109

Colette Maze, also known as Colette Saulnier, was a French pianist and teacher born in Paris in 1914. A child prodigy who began learning music at the age of 4, Maze developed a deep appreciation for the work of her neighbor, the renowned composer Claude Debussy. She went on to become an accomplished pianist and teacher, but it wasn’t until she was over 80 that she began recording commercially. What followed was a remarkable second act in classical music history as she released seven albums, mostly featuring the music of Debussy, showcasing her exquisite finger work and irrepressible joy.

Maze’s dedication to playing the piano remained unwavering throughout her life. She credited her ability to continue playing in old age to the teaching of Alfred Cortot and Nadia Boulanger, who emphasized relaxation in their methods. Despite facing personal challenges, including fleeing to the south of France during World War II and a failed relationship, Maze’s love for music never waned.

In 1984, Maze retired from teaching but continued to play the piano for at least four hours each day. Her son eventually persuaded her to record an album to capture her unique talents and the influence of Mr. Cortot’s methods, leading to the release of several albums featuring the music of various composers.

Maze gained increasing public attention and acclaim for her supple interpretations of classical and modern composers and became a source of inspiration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans from around the world visited her at home to seek her advice, drawn to her unwavering passion for music.

Colette Maze passed away in her Paris apartment at the age of 109, leaving behind a rich legacy of musical excellence and a lifelong devotion to her craft.

Historically, Colette Maze’s story provides insight into the enduring influence of classical composers such as Claude Debussy and the significant impact of exceptional teachers like Alfred Cortot and Nadia Boulanger in shaping the careers of young musicians. Her remarkable journey from a young girl learning music from her neighbor to the world’s oldest recording pianist serves as a testament to the power of passion and dedication in the pursuit of artistic excellence.

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