Condoleezza Rice Gave Up the Piano for Politics

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Condoleezza Rice with Mad About Music host Gilbert Kaplan. Condoleezza Rice with Mad About Music host Gilbert Kaplan. (WNYC)

A child prodigy, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could read music before she could read and could have been a concert pianist. But she opted instead for geopolitics, as she revealed to host Gilbert Kaplan:

— She gave up a career as a pianist realizing she wouldn’t be good enough. She understood that she was “going to end up playing piano bar or Nordstrom’s but not Carnegie Hall.”

— Arthur Rubinstein is her favorite pianist

— Brahms is her favorite composer: “Passionate without being sentimental.”

— Prefers music written in minor keys: “I think they’re richer.”

— Although President George W. Bush doesn’t like classical music, he always encouraged her to find time to play piano. He knew “it was a very centering experience for me.”

— Her musical selections included works by Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms.

This episode is the second of four shows with political personalities leading up to the election.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Concerto No. 20, K.466, final movement. RCA Victor Symphony. Alfred Wallenstein. Arthur Rubinstein, piano. RCA Victor Gold Seal 7967-2-RG.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Christ on the Mount of Olives [excerpt]. Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart & Bach-Collegium Stuttgart. Helmuth Rilling. Maria Venuti, soprano; Keith Lewis, tenor; Michel Brodard, bass. Musical Heritage Society 5261121.

Johannes Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn for Two Pianos, Op. 56b [excerpt]. Sir Georg Solti and Murray Perahia, pianos. CBS Records Masterworks MK 42625.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 7. Second movement. Chicago Symphony. Sir Georg Solti. London Records 430 400 2.

Johannes Brahms: Piano Quintet. Scherzo. John Browning, piano; Krista Bennion Feeney, violin I; Mayuki Fukuhara, violin II; Louise Schulman, viola; Daire FitzGerald, violoncello. Music Masters Classics 67161-2.

Comments [6]

Hendrik E. Sadi

I was quite upset and disturbed last night when I heard that Condoleeza Rice had been invited to Mad About Music.

Doesn't WQXR realize that by inviting her, they are infact helping her re-invent herself away from the damaging polices she helped orchestrate during her tenure as adviser and secretary of state in the George W. Bush Administration.

Having the talent and loving classical music should not be the sole criteria for inviting someone to your show.

There should be a sense of character and moral integrity that goes with the invitation.

Hendrik E. Sadi
Yonkers, NY

Oct. 22 2012 03:46 PM
Silversalty from free speech zone cage


This is just another example of the sad state of NPR and its new ward WQXR.

Ms. Rice is only mentioned here because of her political status. Without that she'd be just another of the 1,000,000 plus failed musicians that had dreams.

Doing a search on Gilbert Kaplan turned up this quote from Wikipedia -

"Private Eye magazine claimed that Kaplan had only been allowed to conduct leading orchestras after paying them large amounts of money."

Then there's this -

"But to some of the musicians who perform for Mr. Kaplan, he remains an unclothed emperor, a talent-free conductor who brings little to the work. Such a view bubbled into rebellion at the New York Philharmonic ..."

"Birds of a feather..."

Oct. 21 2012 10:16 PM

I am so impressed by the fact that Condi Rice is so musically
gifted. I hope she always uses her music as a wonderful
creative outlet and a source of pleasure and enjoyment to her
life. My political views have nothing to do with music nor should
they. Music (both singing and playing piano) are a mainstay
of my life, especially as I was also a music major in college.
Brava to you Condoleeza!

Oct. 21 2012 09:48 PM
Bernie from UWS

@Suzanne - get a grip. I think Bruce is being kind. Rice was one of the chief enablers of George Bush's wars and stood by while Dick Cheney and his cronies ran roughshod over the constitution. The fact that Gilbert Kaplan is even giving her an outlet for her views is deeply unsettling.

Oct. 21 2012 08:50 PM
Suzanne from New York

Dear WQXR:
Regarding your request that comments "stay on topic, be civil, and be brief," are you going to let Bruce from NJ's comments stand?

Oct. 21 2012 08:15 PM
Bruce from NJ

I'm surprised. When I saw her play, I thought she should have stuck with music rather than subject the U.S. to her fascist politics. Now to read that SHE didn't think her musical ability was good enough, I guess I didn't realize she sucked at both arts.

Oct. 21 2012 11:07 AM

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