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Arthur Rubinstein

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Arthur Rubinstein KBE[1] (January 28, 1887 – December 20, 1982) was a Polish-born Jewish American[2] pianist. He received international acclaim for his performances of the music of a variety of composers, and is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.[3]

Early life

Rubinstein was born on January 28, 1887, the youngest of eight children of a businessman from the large Jewish community in Polish town of Łódź, then in Congress Poland.

He demonstrated an early fascination with the piano beginning at two years of age during his elder sister's piano lessons. Rubinstein first studied in Warsaw playing at the age of four for the great Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim, who was greatly impressed and began to play the role of mentor for the young prodigy. By the age of ten Rubinstein moved to Berlin to continue his studies. In 1900, he made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic, followed by appearances in Germany and Poland and further study with Karl Heinrich Barth (an associate of Franz Liszt, Hans von Bülow, Joseph Joachim and Johannes Brahms; Barth also taught Wilhelm Kempff).

Career

In 1904, Rubinstein moved to Paris to launch his career in earnest. There he met the composers Maurice Ravel and Paul Dukas and the violinist Jacques Thibaud. He also played Camille Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No. 2 in the presence of the composer. Through the family of Juliusz Wertheim (to whose understanding of Chopin's genius Rubinstein attributed his own inspiration in the works of that composer) he formed friendships with the violinist Paul Kochanski and composer Karol Szymanowski.[4]

Rubinstein made his New York debut at Carnegie Hall in 1906, and thereafter toured the United States, Austria, Italy, and Russia. According to his own testimony and that of his son in François Reichenbach's film L'Amour de la vie (1969), however, he was not well received in the United States, and in 1907, when he found himself destitute and desperate in a Berlin hotel room, hounded by creditors and threatened with being thrown out into the street, he made a failed attempt to hang himself. Subsequently he said that he felt "reborn" and endowed with an unconditional love of life. In 1912, he made his London debut, and found a home there in the Edith Grove, Chelsea musical salon of Paul and Muriel Draper, in company with Kochanski, Igor Stravinsky, Jacques Thibaud, Pablo Casals, Pierre Monteux and others.[5]

Rubinstein stayed in London during World War I, giving recitals and accompanying the violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. In 1916 and 1917, he made his first tours in Spain and South America where he was wildly acclaimed. It was during those tours that he developed a lifelong enthusiasm for the music of Enrique Granados, Isaac Albéniz, Manuel de Falla, and Heitor Villa-Lobos. He was the dedicatee of Villa-Lobos's Rudepoêma and Stravinsky's Trois mouvements de Petrouchka.

It was his disgust with Germany's conduct during the First World War that led Rubinstein never to play there again. His last performance in Germany was in 1914.[4] [6]

In the fall of 1919 Rubinstein toured the English Provinces with soprano Emma Calvé and tenor Vladimir Rosing.[7] In 1921 he gave two American tours, travelling to New York with Paul Kochanski (they remained close friends until Kochanski's death in 1934) and Karol Szymanowski. The autumn voyage was the occasion of Kochanski's permanent migration to the USA.[8]

In 1932, the pianist, who stated he neglected his technique in his early years, withdrew from concert life for several months of intensive study and practice.

During the Second World War, Rubinstein's career became centered in the United States. Impresario Sol Hurok insisted Rubinstein be billed as Artur (his Polish birth name) for his American concerts, even though the pianist referred to himself as Arthur when in English-speaking countries. He became a naturalized United States citizen in 1946. He expressed his warm feelings for his native country when he played on June 26, 1945, at the San Francisco Opera during the inauguration of the United Nations.[9]

Although best known as a recitalist and concerto soloist, Rubinstein was also considered an outstanding chamber musician, partnering with such luminaries as Henryk Szeryng, Jascha Heifetz, Pablo Casals, Gregor Piatigorsky, and the Guarneri Quartet. Rubinstein recorded much of the core piano repertoire, particularly that of the Romantic composers. With the exception of the Études, he recorded most of the works of Chopin. [10] He was one of the earliest champions of the Spanish and South American composers and of French composers who, in the early 20th century, were still considered "modern" such as Debussy and Ravel. In addition, Rubinstein was the first champion of the music of his compatriot Karol Szymanowski. Rubinstein, in conversation with Alexander Scriabin, named Brahms as his favorite composer, a response that enraged Scriabin.[11]

Rubinstein, who was fluent in eight languages,[12] held much of the repertoire, not simply that of the piano, in his formidable memory.[12] According to his memoirs, he learned César Franck’s Symphonic Variations while on a train en route to the concert, without the benefit of a piano, practicing passages in his lap. Rubinstein described his memory as photographic, to the extent that he would visualize an errant coffee stain while recalling a score.[13]

In the mid-1970s, Rubinstein's eyesight began to deteriorate and he retired from the stage at age 89 in May 1976, giving his last concert at London's Wigmore Hall, where he had first played nearly seventy years before.

Personal life

In 1932 Rubinstein married Aniela (Nela) Młynarska, daughter of conductor Emil Młynarski and ex-wife of Mieczysław Munz. They had four children, including daughter Eva, who married William Sloane Coffin, and son John Rubinstein, a Tony Award-winning actor and father of actor Michael Weston.[14] Rubinstein also fathered a daughter with a South American woman.[15]

During his marriage, Rubinstein carried on a series of affairs with other women, including Irene Curzon, and in 1977, at age 90, he left his wife for the young Annabelle Whitestone, though he and Nela never divorced.

His pupils

Arthur Rubinstein was reluctant to teach in his earlier life, refusing to accept William Kapell's request for lessons. It was not until the late 1950s that he accepted his first student Dubravka Tomšič Srebotnjak.[16] Other students of Arthur Rubinstein include François-René Duchâble, Avi Schönfeld, Eugen Indjic, Dean Kramer, and Marc Laforêt. Rubinstein stated that his main goal in teaching was to help his pupils to find themselves and for them to become real musical personalities. Rubinstein also gave master classes towards the end of his life.[17][18]

Death

Rubinstein died in Geneva, Switzerland, on December 20, 1982, at the age of 95, and his body was cremated. On the first anniversary of his death, an urn holding his ashes was buried in Jerusalem — as specified in his will — in a dedicated plot now dubbed "Rubinstein Forest" overlooking the Jerusalem Forest. This was arranged with the rabbis so that the main forest wouldn't fall under religious laws governing cemeteries. Israel now has an Arthur Rubinstein International Music Society which holds the triennial Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition.[19]

While he identified himself as an agnostic, Rubinstein was nevertheless proud of his Jewish heritage.[20] He was a great friend of Israel,[21] which he visited several times with his wife and children, giving concerts with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, recitals, and master classes at the Jerusalem Music Centre.

In October 2007, his family donated to the Juilliard School an extensive collection of original manuscripts, manuscript copies and published editions that had been seized by the Germans during World War II from his Paris residence. Seventy-one items were returned to his four children, marking the first time that Jewish property kept in the Berlin State Library was returned to the legal heirs.[22]

Recordings

In 1910, Rubinstein recorded Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 10 for the Polish Favorit label.[23] The pianist was displeased with the acoustic recording process, which he said made the piano sound “like a banjo” and did not record again until the advent of electrical recording.

However, Rubinstein made numerous player piano music rolls for the Aeolian Duo-Art system and the American Piano Company (AMPICO) in the 1920s.

Beginning in 1928, Rubinstein began to record extensively for RCA Victor, making a large number of solo, concerto and chamber music recordings until his retirement in 1976. As recording technology improved, from 78rpm discs, to LPs, and stereophonic recordings, Rubinstein rerecorded much of his repertoire. Thus, there are often three or more recordings of Rubinstein playing the same works. All of his RCA recordings have been released on compact disc and amount to about 107 hours of music.

Rubinstein preferred to record in the studio, and during his lifetime only approved for release about three hours of live recordings. However, since the pianist’s death, several labels have issued live recordings taken from radio broadcasts.

Honors

  • Sonning Award (1971; Denmark)
  • On April 1, 1976, Artur Rubinstein was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford.
  • In 1977, he was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE).

Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance:

  • Pierre Fournier, Arthur Rubinstein and Henryk Szeryng for Schubert: Trios Nos. 1 in B-flat, Op. 99 and 2 in E-flat, Op. 100 (Piano Trios) (Grammy Awards of 1976)
  • Pierre Fournier, Arthur Rubinstein & Henryk Szeryng for Brahms: Trios (Complete)/Schumann: Trio No. 1 in D Minor (Grammy Awards of 1975)
  • Arthur Rubinstein for Beethoven: Sonatas No. 21 in C (Waldstein) and No. 18 in E-flat (Grammy Awards of 1960)

Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra):

  • Arthur Rubinstein for 'Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 18 in E-flat/Schumann: Fantasiestücke, Op. 12 (Grammy Awards of 1978)
  • Arthur Rubinstein for Beethoven: Sonatas No. 21 in C (Waldstein) and No. 18 in E-flat (Grammy Awards of 1960)

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1994)

Bibliography

  • Rubinstein, Artur (1973). My Young Years. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0394468902. 
  • Rubinstein, Artur (1980). My Many Years. New York: New York. ISBN 0394422538. 

Notes

  1. http://www.culture.pl/en/culture/artykuly/wy_in_rok_rubinsteina_2007
  2. >http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0128.html "Rubinstein became an American citizen in 1946..."
  3. http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0128.html "In the pantheon of 20th-century pianists, Mr. Rubinstein's place is assured as one of the titans".
  4. 4.0 4.1 Sachs 1997,
  5. Sachs, ibid.
  6. Popular belief would have it that it was the murder of Jews, including many members of his own family, during World War II that caused Rubinstein to cut all ties with German audiences.
  7. Newton, Ivor (1966). At the Piano – the World of an Accompanist. London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd. p. 44.
  8. Sachs 1997, 200–212.
  9. Rubinstein later described becoming overwhelmed by a blind fury and angrily pointing out to the public the absence of the Polish flag, for which the Second World War had just been fought. He then sat down to the piano and played the Polish national anthem loudly and slowly, repeating the final part in a great thunderous forte. When he had finished, the public rose to their feet as a man and gave him a great ovation. Elżbieta Ulanowska, "Na cześć Artura Rubinsteina: Pianistyczna gala w Łodzi" ("In Honor of Artur Rubinstein: Piano Gala in Łódź"), Gwiazda Polarna (The Pole Star, a Polish-American biweekly), vol. 99, no. 21 (October 11, 2008), p. 18.
  10. In 1964, i.e. at the height of the "cold war", he gave a legendary concert in Moscow, with a pure Chopin program. Fortunately this presentation is well-documented on an Audio-CD edited by Joachim Kaiser, Klavier Kaiser, Sueddeutsche-Zeitung Co., Munich 2004.
  11. Artur Rubinstein, My Young Years, quoted in Norman Lebrecht, The Book of Musical Anecdotes
  12. 12.0 12.1 Sachs, Harvey (1995). Rubinstein: A Life. New York: Grove Press. p. 8. ISBN 0802115799. 
  13. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,835163-3,00.html
  14. "John Rubinstein Biography". filmreference. 2008. http://www.filmreference.com/film/82/John-Rubinstein.html. Retrieved 10 April 2008. 
  15. Sachs, Harvey (1995). Rubinstein: A Life. New York: Grove Press. p. 8. ISBN 0802115799.
  16. *Rubinstein, Artur (1980). My Many Years. New York: New York. 
  17. Video with Rubinstein, talks about practicing piano (German)
  18. Video with Rubinstein, giving Master Class
  19. Associated Press (22 December 1983). "Arthur Rubinstein Remains Are Buried in Jerusalem Plot". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A07E1D71438F931A15751C1A965948260. Retrieved 27 August 2007. 
  20. http://books.google.com/books?id=44Sl_52ePdYC&pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=%22arthur+rubinstein%22+agnostic&source=bl&ots=hKAod-9hBs&sig=pfRI9cOQEZJxtSJLRq8aAY4KXK4&hl=en&ei=XUuNSqHFFIO6NcyZmMsK&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6#v=onepage&q=%22arthur%20rubinstein%22%20agnostic&f=false "as an adult, he referred with pride to hus Jewish origins but called himself an agnostic"
  21. Rubinstein, Artur (1980). My Many Years. New York: New York. ISBN 0394422538
  22. Juilliard NEWS dated October 15, 2007
  23. http://books.google.com/books?id=44Sl_52ePdYC&pg=RA1-PA443&lpg=RA1-PA443&dq=rubinstein+polish+favorit+1910&source=bl&ots=hKAp7X8dBA&sig=L6kooHg3-OY-KtKf2bs7GjCpQAI&hl=en&ei=K8SSSvGMFpWENsT8rZIK&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2#

References

  • Sachs, Harvey (1995). Rubinstein, a Life. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0802115799. 
  • Rubinstein, Artur (1980). My Many Years. New York: New York. ISBN 0394422538. 

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