Pianist who's been playing for over 100 years draws social media fans

Saturday April 01 2023
French pianist Colette Maze

French pianist Colette Maze, 108 years-old, poses during a photo session in Paris on March 24, 2023. PHOTO | STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN | AFP



Colette Maze has been playing piano for more than a century, and is still drawing thousands of fans on social media.

Born in June 1914, before the outbreak of World War I and when one of her favourite composers, Claude Debussy, was still alive, the French pianist practices four hours a day and is about to release her seventh album, "108 Years of Piano".

From her apartment overlooking the Seine river in Paris, Maze moves cautiously between the three pianos in her living room, but retains a youthful enthusiasm.

"Me? I'm young," she says with a smile. 

"Age is not something I'm interested in. There are people who are forever young, amazed by everything, and then there are people who don't care about anything and never loved anything, even their man -- can you imagine?" she adds.

Pianist Colette Maze

Colette Maze has been playing piano for more than a century, and is still drawing thousands of fans on social media. PHOTO | STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN | AFP

Significant fanbase

Maze was a piano teacher for much of her life, and it was only after turning 100 that she started building a significant fanbase — through her Facebook page.

Many are inspired by her continuing good health and refusal to give up the traditional French pleasures of wine, cheese and chocolate. 

"She gives people strength -- that's why she has such crazy success," said her son, journalist Fabrice Maze, adding with pride that she is one of the few people over 100 releasing albums.

World War I cannon

She still remembers the sound of "Big Bertha", the huge cannon used by the German army during World War I, but most of her memories revolve around her instrument. 

"When I was little, I suffered from asthma and my mother would play violin with my piano teacher -- it would calm me," she says. 

"Piano is my life, my friend. I need to feel it and hear it," she adds, before offering a rendition of Debussy's "Reflections in the Water". 

Maze began playing at five, and despite reluctance from her parents, she won a place at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris with teachers including the renowned Alfred Cortot.

Cortot was known for a method of relaxing all the muscles of the body — which Maze credits with sparing her from arthritis. 

The other secret to her youth? "I did a lot of dancing," she says. "I need to feel my muscles, my abdominals, my thighs, my arms. All that must be alive."