Anton Grigorovich Rubinstein - Encyclopedia

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ANTON GRIGOROVICH RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894), Russian pianist, born of Jewish parentage on the 28th of November 1829 at Wechwotynetz, in Podolia, was the son of a pencil manufacturer who migrated to Moscow. The Rubinstein family, at the dictate of Anton's grandfather Roman Rubinstein, had all been baptized at the time of the ukase against the Jews issued in 1830 by the Tsar Nicholas. Anton was then one year old. Besides his mother he had but one teacher, the piano master Alexander Villoing, of whom he declared at the end of his own career that he had never met a better. In July 1838 Rubinstein appeared in the theatre of the Petrowski Park at Moscow; and in the year following he went to Paris after Villoing, and in 1840 played before Liszt. For some time after this Rubinstein travelled in Holland, Germany and Scandinavia, and reached England in 1842, where on the 20th of May he made his first appearance at a Choral Fund concert. In 1845, after a brief visit to Moscow in 1843, he went with his family (including his brother Nikolaus) to Berlin in order to complete his musical education. Dehn was their master, and Mendelssohn, whom Rubinstein had met previously in London, their best friend. The sudden death of Rubinstein's father necessitated the withdrawal of his mother and Nikolaus to Moscow, while Anton, on Dehn's advice, went to Vienna to seek a livelihood. Hence, after more hard study for nearly two years, he went with the flautist Heindl, and later alone, on a concert tour in Hungary; and the outbreak of the revolution in Vienna preventing his return there, he went via Berlin to St Petersburg, where the Grand Duchess Helene appointed him Kammervirtuos. About this time an unfortunate error of the police nearly caused his expatriation to Siberia, from which he was saved by his patroness. During the next eight years Rubinstein spent most of his time in St Petersburg studying, playing and composing. His opera Dmitri Donskoi was produced there in 1851, and Toms der Narr in 1853. Die Sibirischen Jager, written about the same time, was not produced. On the advice of his patroness and Count Wilhorski he visited Hamburg and Leipzig, and arrived for the second time in London in 1857, when at a Philharmonic concert he introduced his own concerto in G. In the following year he was in London again, having in the meantime been appointed Concert Director of the Royal Russian Musical Society. In 1862, in collaboration with Carl Schuberth, he founded the St Petersburg Conservatoriuin, of which he was director until 1867. In 1868 he travelled in Germany, France and England, and remained for some time in Vienna, where he introduced a large number of his own compositions. Thence he went to America in 1872 and 1873, when he returned to Russia, and after a short rest set off once more on concert tours. In this manner the rest of his life was spent, until in 1885 he began a series of historical recitals of immense interest, which he gave in most of the chief European capitals. He died on the 10th of November 1894.

In addition to the works already named, Rubenstein left compositions in almost every known form. Among other of his operas are Die Kinder der Haide, Feramors (Lalla Roukh), Nero, Der Damon and Die Makkabaer, this last perhaps more frequently played than all the others, of which the chief defect is their lack of dramatic point. On the subject of oratorio Rubinstein held original views, though his attempt to realize them in Moses and Christus was not completely successful, while his efforts in Berlin and London to found a Sacred Theatre failed entirely. Nevertheless he himself regarded the Christus as his greatest achievement. The most familiar of his five symphonies are the "Ocean" and the "Dramatic." He wrote scores on scores of pianoforte works, from complex concertos to the most commonplace salonstiicke; abundance of concerted chamber-music, and a number of songs and duets, which enjoyed some popularity. He also published several books, including his Reminiscences and Die geistliche Oper. XXIII. 26 a Rubinstein's fame as one of the greatest of pianists will live in history. His technique bore comparison with that of Liszt; he possessed a power for interpreting the most different kinds of music which has not been surpassed.

His brother Nikolaus (1835-1881) was also a remarkable pianist, and a marvellous teacher of music. He founded the conservatorium of music at Moscow.

See Bernhard Vogel, Anton Rubinstein, Biographischer Abriss (Leipzig, 1888); Alexander MacArthur, Anton Rubinstein, a Biographical Sketch (Edinburgh, 1889); Eugen Zabel, Anton Rubinstein, Ein Kiinstlerleben (Leipzig, 1892); Anton von Halten, Anton Rubinstein (Utrecht, 1886); Cuthbert H. Cronk, The Works of Anton Rubinstein (London, 1900).

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