The Associated Press reports that his ashes and those of his wife, Tatiana Nevole Firkusny, will be placed in the central cemetery in Brno, Mrs. Firkusny's birthplace in what is now the Czech Republic, on September 10. Following the ceremony, the mayor of Brno will host a concert of piano music in Firkusny's honor, according to the AP.
Born in 1912 in Napajedla, a small city in Moravia (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a province of Czechoslovakia after World War I), Firkusny studied piano with composer Leos Janšcek from the age of five. He went on to enroll at the Prague Academy of Music, where his composition teacher was Josef Suk, the son-in-law of Anton‹n Dvoršk. From the early 1930s, as Firkusny's career developed in Europe and later the U.S., one of his closest friends was composer Bohuslav Martinu.
With such a musical pedigree, Firkusny was naturally considered authoritative in Czech music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Yet he was also widely admired for the mixture of passion and elegance he brought to the keyboard music of Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Brahms.
Firkusny left Czechoslovakia after the Nazi invasion of 1939 and settled in the U.S. in 1940. While he did return to Prague for a brief period after World War II, he decided to become an American citizen following the Communist takeover of his homeland in 1948. After that regime fell in 1989, Firkusny returned to give triumphant performances in the following year's Prague Spring Festival. He received an honorary doctorate from the city's venerable Charles University and other honors, though he continued to make his home in the New York area.
When Firkusny died in New York state at age 82, the family kept his ashes, which were mixed with those of his wife when she passed away in 2005. Their daughter told the AP that the family's intent had always been to inter the couple's remains in their homeland once that could be arranged.