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Friedrich Gulda

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Classical and jazz pianist and composer, Friedrich Gulda was one of Austria's premiere pianists. Born in Vienna in 1930, Gulda started piano lessons at the age of seven. When he was 12, he enrolled in the Vienna Music Academy, and four years later received first place in the Geneva International Music Festival. In 1949, Gulda toured Europe and South America, earning international acclaim for his treatments of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, and the following year he successfully debuted at Carnegie Hall. Gulda became more involved in jazz from 1951 on, when he improvised with Dizzy Gillespie following a performance with the Chicago Symphony. Five years later, Gulda played his first American jazz concert at Birdland (N.Y.C.), followed by a performance at the Newport Jazz Festival. After this, Gulda formed the Eurojazz Orchestra, a jazz combo and big band which drew from both jazz and classical compositions. In 1966, ten years after his Birdland appearance, Gulda organized a modern jazz competition in his native city. He was awarded the Vienna Academy's Beethoven Ring in 1970, but later returned it to protest what he regarded as a constricting educational system. This only reinforced the public's perception of Gulda as an eccentric. This reputation was not helped when he abruptly called off major performances more than once. A 1988 incident occurred in reaction to objections to his program for a Salzburg music festival that included jazz musician Joe Zawinul; he made another last minute cancellation by faking his own death with a phony obituary only days before a scheduled performance of Mozart. On January 27, 2000, Friedrich Gulda died of an apparent heart attack in Vienna, the city of his birth. ~ Joslyn Layne

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16 May 1930 in Vienna, Austria

Years Active:

'50s, '60s, '70s, '80s