16.06.1914 in Paris

oldest pianist in the world, has just released three new CDs with interpretations of Debussy at the age of almost 107.

„You have to look for pure beauty. It is difficult to create it. Go to the places, the music, the poetry and the people that reflect beauty and tenderness.“ Colette Maze


1 younger brother (who was very different from me, a bourgeois and businessman with no sense of the arts, died 3 years ago), 1 son Fabrice (71), no grandchildren.

„My mother was very strict and masculine, she rode and hunted a lot. She loved her animals, but not her daughter. I was often trampled underfoot. She wanted to train me like a dog. That was not a nice childhood. The piano comforted me in my despair, Robert Schumann was my prince charming. Even as a baby I played the piano. The neighbourhood boys upstairs practised playing the piano every day, and I repeated the notes I had heard. That’s when my musical talent was discovered by the family. I never liked dolls – perhaps because there weren’t any male dolls – but I did like the piano.

When my piano exam came up, I couldn’t practise for weeks. My parents were away and I had to sleep in the servants‘ quarters under the roof. They had locked the flat where the piano was, so that I wouldn’t get the idea of bringing home an admirer. I was desperate, but I passed the exam anyway. I was a pupil of Alfred Cortot himself, who founded the École Normale de Musique de Paris, from 1935 to 1940. I am the last active pianist who still plays according to his unique method.

Back in Germany, Alfred Cortot met a woman who taught him yoga. From these yoga exercises, Alfred developed a special yoga school for pianists, which I still practise every day (see photos).

When you are tense, you have to loosen up as quickly as possible. It’s like riding a bicycle, one foot pedals and the other rests. People nowadays are all too tense, you have to let go and take a breath.

Before the war, my parents sent me to the École d’infirmière (nurses‘ school). When the war started, I worked as a nurse in Auxerre. When the Germans came closer, I fled alone on my bicycle to my former nanny in Auvergne, in a village near Clermant-Ferrand. I stayed there until the armistice. I returned to Paris by bicycle.

After the war, I resumed my piano work.

I read many novels and always dreamed of Prince Charming – to this day I’m still waiting for him! We girls of our time expected too much from men!

My parents wanted me to marry a rich man that befitted my status. That’s why I was regularly introduced to sons of the 200 richest families in France. That was not for me! One pompous son even wore spats over his shoes, of all people I was supposed to marry him! I was more of a country girl inside.

I organised many music evenings at home, a friend of mine always came with her husband – he was tall and had blue eyes like a prince charming. This friend then went crazy and came to the clinic. Her husband asked me not to leave him alone, and well, then I suddenly had a child by him – „Fille Mère“ and illegitimately. That was a disaster.

In the end, I married Monsieur Maze, who was 38 years older than me. He was very nice to me and always helped me, but he wasn’t Prince Charming. Blue eyes are important, they are like the sea; ships swim on them. My husband was the director of the army theatre – he organised theatre and music performances in barracks and bases for motivation. In the 70s, I gave many concerts with Pierre Gerbaut, a gifted cello player. The combination of piano and violoncello is dreamlike!

My son Fabrice has always been allowed to listen to a lot of music – he persuaded me to publish with more than 100 CDs. 6 CDs have already been released, in April a slipcase with 3 CDs of Debussy interpretations will be released. These can be ordered via Amazon. They were recorded by a sound engineer and friend in her flat on the big Steinway grand piano early on Sunday mornings, so there was no disturbing street noise from outside. Colette has been featured several times in television reports and in articles in „Le Parisien“. A few years ago, a taxi driver fell madly in love with her – there was a hail of love letters and bouquets of roses, but it’s been quiet again for almost two years.

Diet: I like to eat fruit and vegetables, langoustines are OK, I don’t like fish at all. I love dark chocolate. And red wine! I drink almost a bottle a day.

Colette asks me, „do you know what comes after life? I don’t know….“


photos: René Schwerdtel for Wissner-Bosserhoff