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Scott Ross (Harpsichord)

Born: March 1, 1951 - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Died: June 13, 1989 - Assas, France

The American harpsichordist, Scott Stonebreaker Ross, was nearly crippled by a severe scoliosis which kept him in a corset for much of his early life. He studied piano and organ in Pittsburgh. Following the death of his father he moved to France with his mother in 1964, where he studied harpsichord at the Conservatoire of Nice. While living in Nice his mother committed suicide when Ross was aged 17. After completing his studies at the Nice Conservatory, he moved to the National Superior Conservatory in Paris, and while studying there he won the prestigious Concours de Bruges, held at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp in 1971.

In 1971 Scott Ross re-crossed the Atlantic to begin a teaching career at the School of Music, Laval University, Quebec. While teaching there he made award-winning recordings of the complete Pièces de Clavecin by Rameau. Ross dressed in similar fashion to his students (even in performance), and his 'granny' spectacles appeared to align him more with the popular music icon John Lennon than the authentic performance scholar Gustav Leonhardt. For one concert at Laval University which was attended by the university chancellor and the French Consul General he wore jeans and a red lumberjack shirt. Self-effacing to a fault, he explained, "I started the Goldbergs 'cause I quit smoking and, to keep one's fingers busy, it's better than knitting".

A passionate collector of orchids, his other hobbies included vulcanology, mineralogy, and mushrooms. His keyboard interests were similarly wide ranging, extending beyond the harpsichord to the music of Frédéric Chopin, C. Debussy and M. Ravel which he performed on the piano, and he also accompanied Schubert Lieder. He loved the music of Brian Eno and Philip Glass, and was a fan of the punk performance artist Nina Hagen. The inevitable comparisons with the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould are put into context by S. Ross's stating: "When I hear Glenn Gould, I say, he understood nothing about Bach. An artist who doesn't show himself in public has a problem. He's so much off-target that you'd need a 747 to take him back".

In 1983 Scott Ross took an indefinite sabbatical from Laval, embarking on a recording of François Couperin's Suites pour le Clavecin, as well as the music of other composers including J.S. Bach, George Frideric Handel, Girolamo Frescobaldi and Jean-Henri d'Anglebert. He returned to his beloved France, renting a small house in Assas, near Montpelier, and another in Paris. In 1984 he signed a five-year recording-contract with Erato, but also experienced his first premonition of the illness that would later kill him. The main fruit of his new contract was the daunting task of recording the complete keyboard sonatas (555 in total) of Domenico Scarlatti, a project started by Radio France who decided to broadcast the sonatas in celebration of the composer's three hundredth anniversary in 1985. Scott Ross began recording the sonatas on June 16, 1984, and during the eighteen months of recording Ross knew he had a fatal illness. Ninety-eight sessions were required, and the last take was completed on 10 September 1985. In all, there had been eight thousand takes.

Scott Ross died on June 13, 1989 in Montpelier's Lapeyronie Hospital of an AIDS-related illness, aged 38.

Source: Mostly Wikipedia Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (October 2006)

Scott Ross: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Scott Ross performs Bach Keyboard Works | Scott Ross Performs Bach's Partitas for Keyboard | A Terrific Trio of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier
Discussions of Instrumental Recordings:
Partitas BWV 825-830 - played by S. Ross

Links to other Sites

Scott Ross (Wikipedia)
Scott Ross, Master of the Harpsichord (Lycos)
Scott Ross (1951-1989) - A discography (Medieval)

Hommage à Scott Ross [French]
Schott Ross - Biography (AMG)

Biographies of Performers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Explanation | Acronyms | Missing Biographies | The Sad Corner


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