Philly’s youngest soloist, aged 7

Philly’s youngest soloist, aged 7


norman lebrecht

April 12, 2021

Zola Mae Shaulis caused quite a stir when, aged 7, she played the first movement of a Mozart concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra. That was in 1950.

Zola won the Naumburg Piano Competition in 1970 and cut a debut recital disc on DG. She went on to play at Carnegie Hall and eventually formed a management company.

Zola has died in Tampa Bay, Florida, aged 78.


  • Heini says:

    Mozart’s A minor piano concerto???

  • Bernard Jacobson says:

    What Mozart A minor concerto?

  • pianoronald says:

    Mozart‘s a minor concerto? Mozart wrote only two piano concertos in minor keys: the d minor (K 466) and the c minor (K 491)

    • David K. Nelson says:

      Looks like it has already been corrected.

      Perhaps he meant “a minor Mozart concerto.” But even that is incorrect. The always reliable internet says the concerto was in A Major, which describes No. 12 K 414 and No. 23 K 488. My money is on K 488, but neither concerto is minor much less in a minor key.

      And the conductor was Alexander Hilsberg. That’s some debut.

      • BRUCEB says:

        Judging from when the review was written, I would guess that “the A minor concerto” was probably a typo for K488. People weren’t so generally aware of K414 back then.

        If a teacher wanted a child to play an early concerto back then, they’d probably give her the “Jeunehomme.”

      • BRUCEB says:

        ^ reply to my previous comment (not published yet, but we’ll see): I didn’t see that the original post had been corrected.

        The newspaper review referenced by Anonymous, below, says “the A major concerto,” which for reasons I listed in my earlier comment, I would guess was K488.

        (I remember reading stuff from the 19th century where people like Nietzsche simply referred to “the D minor symphony” without having to mention a composer… because there was really only one D minor symphony at that time.)

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    The title of Philadelphia’s youngest soloist belongs to pianist Susan Starr, who was 6 years old at her debut.

  • Lady Weidenfeld says:

    I do remember that Arthur Rubinstein was extremely impressed by her playing when he heard her. He told me she had won the coveted Naumburg Prize. He wanted to help her career but shortly afterwards she decided to retire and devote herself to her family. May she rest in peace

  • Anonymous says:

    From the April 22nd 1950 Reading Eagle:

    “… And in a brief pre-performance interview — Hilsberg had to hold her in his arms because the microphone could not be dropped low enough — she told the audience:
    ‘Yes, I like music. I have been playing for three years. I practice two hours every day.’ … ”

    Remarkable how we used to trust adults around our children…

  • Greg Bottini says:

    This is a great performance of the Goldbergs. I’m particularly impressed by Ms. Shaulis’ lovely divisions and ornamentations. Her tempi are sprightly but well-chosen, and her technique is crystal clear.
    Farewell, Zola, dear lady.

  • fflambeau says:

    She probably realized women back then had no chance. She was smart to get out.