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home / people / Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph

Names: Zaidel-Rudolph, Jeanne

Born: 1948

In Summary: Pianist.


Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph was born in Pretoria in 1948, and was educated at Pretoria High School for Girls. As a student, she displayed an extraordinary gift for playing the piano. Under the guidance of her teachers (including Goldie Zaidel, Philip Levy and Adolph Hallis in South Africa and John Lill in London) she won many prizes and awards for her piano performances.

Zaidel-Rudolph studied music at the University of Pretoria and at the Royal College of Music in London, where she received tuition in composition from John Lambert and Tristram Carey.

A meeting with the distinguished pianist and composer György Ligeti led to an invitation to join his class in Hamburg, Germany. This was an experience which was to prove a major influence in her later compositional work. On her return to South Africa, Zaidel-Rudolph took up a teaching position at the University of the Witwatersrand while pursuing her studies further at the University of Pretoria. Supervised by her life-long mentor, Stefans Grové, she became the first woman in the country to obtain a Doctorate in Composition in 1979.

Since she began work as a composer in the early 1970s, Zaidel-Rudolph's compositional output has been considerable. Moreover, she has composed in a wide range of musical genres, including choral, ballet, rock opera, film and solo instrumental, as well as for large-scale symphony and for small chamber arrangements.

In 1995, she had the honour of arranging the first composite version of South Africa’s new National Anthem at the request of former President Nelson Mandela. She was also commissioned to write a work, Oratorio for Human Rights in 1996, for the Atlanta Olympics. In 1997, she composed He walked to Freedom, for Nelson Mandela’s honorary doctorate ceremony at the University of Cape Town.

In 2000, 2002, and 2003 she participated in the show Celebration in Canada, the USA and the UK, for which she composed, conducted and orchestrated the music.

Zaidel-Rudolph has been the recipient of many awards. In 1974, she was the first South African composer to be awarded the prestigious Cobbett Prize for composition at the Royal College of Music. In 1986, she won the first prize for composition in the first Total Oil (SA) Competition in South Africa. She also has the distinction of being the first South African composer to have her complete body of work recorded and issued commercially.

This prodigious South African composer, pianist and teacher, is the epitome of the superlative creative talent so abundant in our country. Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph’s refined creativity in the field of music composition has coloured our lives and added immensely to the vibrancy and rich texture of our multi-cultural society.

Zaidel-Rudolph’s works are regularly performed in Africa, Europe and America.

She currently teaches at the School of Music of the University of the Witwatersrand where, since 1975, she has ploughed back much of her expertise and skill into nurturing new talent in the field of music.

She is married to fellow academic, Michael Rudolph, who holds the position of Chair of Public Oral Health in the School of Public Health at the University of the Witwatersrand. They have 4 daughters and two grandchildren.

For her outstanding contribution as a composer, pianist and teacher in the development of music in South Africa and internationally, the South African Government bestowed Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph with the Order of Ikhamanga in Bronze at the National Orders awards on 19 October 2004.