Rudolf Serkin

As one of the most famous pianists of the 20th century, Rudolf Serkin was known for his bold, intense interpretations of many of the warhorses of the classical repertoire.

Born to refugee Russian Jews on March 28, 1903, in Eger, Bohemia, Serkin learned to play piano by the age of 4 in a crowded household with seven siblings. The arduous circumstances of his background led to a severe performance style.

Serkin toured Europe during the '20s, and began performing as a soloist under Arturo Toscanini at the New York Philharmonic in 1936. Refusing to soften the music, Serkin became famous for his bold interpretations of Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart. He also served as an influence on the U.S. classical community as president of Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music and overseer of the prestigious Marlboro Music Festival.

As his health declined, Serkin ceased touring in the late '80s. Before dying of cancer on May 8, 1991, Serkin recorded a version of Beethoven's Appassionata at his home in Guilford, Vt.

Other birthdays Tuesday: Herbert Hall, 1907; and Alf Clausen, 1941.