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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1937

Arthur Rubinstein KBE[1] (January 28, 1887 – December 20, 1982) was a Polish-American[2] pianist.[3] He received international acclaim for his performances of the music of a variety of composers. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.[4]


Early life

Rubinstein grew-up on the famous Piotrkowska street, Łódź

Rubinstein was born in Łódź, Poland on January 28, 1887, to a Jewish family.[5] He was the youngest of 8 children.[6]

At the age of two, he demonstrated perfect pitch and a fascination with the piano, watching his elder sister's piano lessons. By the age of four, he was already recognised as a child prodigy. The great Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim, on hearing the four-year-old child play, was greatly impressed and began to mentor the young prodigy. Rubinstein first studied piano in Warsaw. By the age of ten, Rubinstein moved to Berlin to continue his studies. In 1900 at age 13, 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).


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.[7]

Rubinstein in 1906

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.[8]

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.[7] [9]

In the fall of 1919 Rubinstein toured the English Provinces with soprano Emma Calvé and tenor Vladimir Rosing.[10]

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.[11]

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.

A cast of the pianist's hands, at the Lodz museum

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[12] 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.[13]

Rubinstein, who was fluent in eight languages,[14] held much of the repertoire, not simply that of the piano, in his formidable memory.[14] 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.[15]

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 70 years before.

Personal life

In 1932 Rubinstein married Nela Młynarska, a Polish ballerina (who had studied with Mary Wigman). Nela was the daughter of conductor Emil Młynarski. Nela had first fallen in love with Rubinstein when she was 18, but when Rubinstein began dating an Italian princess, she married Mieczysław Munz.[16][17] Nela subsequently divorced Munz, and three years later married Rubinstein.[18] 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.[19] Nela subsequently wrote a famous book of Polish cookery, Nela's Cookbook [20]

Both before, and during, his marriage, Rubinstein carried on a series of affairs with many other women, including Irene Curzon. In 1977, at age 90, he left his wife for the young Annabelle Whitestone, though he and Nela never divorced. Rubinstein also fathered a daughter with a South American woman.[21]

Throughout his life, Rubinstein was deeply attached to Poland. At the inauguration of the UN in 1945, Rubinstein showed his Polish patriotism at a concert for the delegates. He began the concert by stating his deep disappointment that the conference did not have a delegation from Poland. Rubinstein later described becoming overwhelmed by a blind fury and angrily pointing out to the public the absence of the Polish flag. 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 and gave him a great ovation. [22]

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.[23] 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.[24][25]


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.[26]

While he identified himself as an agnostic, Rubinstein was nevertheless proud of his Jewish heritage.[27] He was a great friend of Israel,[28] 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.[29]


In 1910, Rubinstein recorded Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 10 for the Polish Favorit label.[30] 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.


Sculpture of Artur Rubinstein on Piotrkowska Street, in Łódź, Poland, where Rubinstein once lived.

Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance:

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

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1994)


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

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ > "Rubinstein became an American citizen in 1946..."
  3. ^ > "Rubinstein became an American citizen in 1946..."
  4. ^ "In the pantheon of 20th-century pianists, Mr. Rubinstein's place is assured as one of the titans".
  5. ^ Sachs 1997
  6. ^ Sachs 1997
  7. ^ a b Sachs 1997,
  8. ^ Sachs, ibid.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Newton, Ivor (1966). At the Piano – the World of an Accompanist. London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd. p. 44.
  11. ^ Sachs 1997, 200–212.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Artur Rubinstein, My Young Years, quoted in Norman Lebrecht, The Book of Musical Anecdotes
  14. ^ a b Sachs, Harvey (1995). Rubinstein: A Life. New York: Grove Press. p. 8. ISBN 0802115799. 
  15. ^,9171,835163-3,00.html
  16. ^ NELA RUBINSTEIN: MAKING A LIFE OF HER OWN, By ANGELA TAYLOR (The New York Times); Style Desk December 12, 1983, Monday, Section B, Page 22, Column 2,
  17. ^ After 50 Years of Pots and Chopins with Husband Arthur, Nela Rubinstein Rolls Out Her Own Cookbook , People Magazine, November 14, 1983 Vol. 20 No. 20
  18. ^ After 50 Years of Pots and Chopins with Husband Arthur, Nela Rubinstein Rolls Out Her Own Cookbook , People Magazine, November 14, 1983 Vol. 20 No. 20
  19. ^ "John Rubinstein Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 10 April 2008. 
  20. ^ Rubinstein, Nela Title: Nela's Cookbook Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Place: New York Date: (1983)
  21. ^ Sachs, Harvey (1995). Rubinstein: A Life. New York: Grove Press. p. 8. ISBN 0802115799.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ *Rubinstein, Artur (1980). My Many Years. New York: New York. 
  24. ^ Video with Rubinstein, talks about practicing piano (German)
  25. ^ Video with Rubinstein, giving Master Class
  26. ^ Associated Press (22 December 1983). "Arthur Rubinstein Remains Are Buried in Jerusalem Plot". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 August 2007. 
  27. ^ "as an adult, he referred with pride to hus Jewish origins but called himself an agnostic"
  28. ^ Rubinstein, Artur (1980). My Many Years. New York: New York. ISBN 0394422538
  29. ^ Juilliard NEWS dated October 15, 2007
  30. ^


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

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Arthur Rubinstein as photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1937

Arthur [Artur] Rubinstein KBE (January 28, 1887December 20, 1982) was a Polish-American pianist who is widely considered as one of the greatest piano virtuosi of the 20th century. He received international acclaim for his performances of the music of Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms and his championing of the music of Spanish composers.



  • I'm a free person; I feel terribly free. They could put me in chains and I still would be free because my thoughts would be mine - and that's all I want to have.
    • Quoted from a 1977 interview by Robert MacNeil in the documentary Rubinstein at 90 — reported in Alan M. Kriegsmen (January 26, 1977) "The Magic of Rubinstein ...", The Washington Post, p. B7.
Sculpture of Arthur Rubinstein on Piotrkowska Street, in Łódź, where Rubinstein once lived
  • Yes, I am very lucky, but I have a little theory about this. I have noticed through experience and observation that providence, nature, God, or what I would call the power of creation seems to favor human beings who accept and love life unconditionally, and I am certainly one who does with all my heart.
    • From his autobiography My Young Years (1973), quoted in Carol Krucoff (August 13, 1982) "FOCUS: With a Little Bit of Good Luck", The Washington Post, p. D5.


  • Music is not a hobby, not even a passion with me; music is me. I feel what people get out of me is this outlook on life, which comes out in my music. My music is the last expression of all that.
  • We don't know happiness without unhappiness, gaiety without sadness, and happiness can only be felt if you don't set any conditions.
  • his fingers he has more skill than any of the rest of us.


My father, good or bad, mistakes or no, had a direct line from his heart to the music to the people, to the audience. He played with logic and his own inner truth. – John Rubinstein
  • Just meeting Rubinstein was a thrill for any pianist. He was a real link to tradition in western piano music. He was a friend of Rachmaninoff and he knew Debussy. The man was an inspiration to three generations of pianists.
  • Rubinstein was wonderful. For three days he spent hours playing the piano in my room, and then asking me what I thought of this and that. After a while he told my mother that I had talent and he thought I should be a musician.
  • My father, good or bad, mistakes or no, had a direct line from his heart to the music to the people, to the audience. He played with logic and his own inner truth.
    • John Rubinstein — reported in Kevin Kelly (February 22, 1981) "Rubinstein a Chip Off Rubinstein: John Says His Father's Music Shaped His Approach to Acting", Boston Globe.
  • Arthur Rubinstein once said to me that he couldn't think when he played, that something else took over. I also don't think when I play - something happens through me, but I am motivated by what I have thought before.

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