The world’s oldest pianist, 108-year-old Frenchwoman Colette Maze, has said she is still ‘very much alive’ and is set to release her seventh piano album.
Ms Maze, who lives in an apartment in Paris overlooking the Seine, still plays piano for around four to five hours per day on her Steinway, she told FranceInfo, saying that “music is life”.
“It’s a form of nourishment,” she said. “Just as people need coffee and breakfast, I need a link between music, my fingers, and my body.”
French pianist Colette Maze is 106 years old. She began playing the piano when she was four years old and still exudes great tenderness when she plays today. Maze credits finger gymnastics and yoga for keeping her nimble pic.twitter.com/0jetChvjtJ— Reuters (@Reuters) February 6, 2021
More than 100 years of practice
On Saturday, May 27, Ms Maze performed to 500 people on a grand piano, at the chateau Clos Vougeot in Côte-d'Or (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté).
One member of the audience said: “You can tell that she has a century of piano practice in her hands.”
Ms Maze is set to release her seventh album, entitled, fittingly: ‘108 Ans de Piano (108 Years of Piano).’ The album includes pieces by Gershwin, Piazzolla, Schumann, and Debussy.
Ms Maze’s son, Fabrice Maze, told Le Figaro: “She’s probably the only centenarian who is continuing to record albums.”
‘Piano of tenderness’
Born a month before World War One broke out, Ms Maze first discovered the piano aged four, and instantly preferred it to playing with dolls or other toys. She said her piano was a place of “tenderness” and “a friend”, in contrast to her “harsh” mother, “who only knew how to smack”.
Ms Maze did say, however, that her mother used to play the violin with her music teacher, to the delight of the young Colette, who found that the music “calmed her down”.
Ms Maze later went on to attend the Ecole normale de musique in Paris in 1929 at the age of just 15, despite some reluctance from her parents. After studying with Alfred Cortot and Nadia Boulanger, she received a Diplôme, and became a piano teacher.
She would teach piano her entire working life, except during World War Two, when she would work as a nurse in Auxerre (Yonne).
‘She prefers wine’
Now, having retired, she still practices daily, despite suffering from some symptoms of arthritis and sometimes having memory problems.
She attributes her longevity to having been active when she was younger, including taking part in frequent dancing, field hockey, and gymnastics.
Now, her doctor says she is doing “very well, frankly”, she said, despite warning that she does not eat enough or drink enough water.
She prefers chocolate, cheese, and wine, her son told France 3, adding that she is not about to stop drinking “at her age”. This prompted Ms Maze to joke: “At my age? What does that mean?!”
Ms Maze was this year the subject of a report by France Télévisions, named Qui va piano va lontano, on the Envoyé spécial programme, which was first broadcast on March 30, 2023.
She said: “I am young, age is just a story that doesn’t exist. There are people who are young forever, moved by everything; and then there are people who are blasé about everything, who never love anything.
“You can stay young in your mind, in your heart…I am still alive, with my piano.”
Last year, popular music YouTube channel Thomann Music also recorded an interview with Ms Maze (which is in French with English subtitles, see below). It includes more on her long life as a pianist, her philosophy on life, and excerpts of her playing.