Rubinstein, Anton (1829-1894)
Anton Rubinstein in 1855

Anton Rubinstein

born: 28 November 1829
died: 20 November 1894
country: Russia

Best-known in his lifetime as one of the great piano virtuosos of the nineteenth century, but also a composer, conductor, teacher and administrator, Anton Rubinstein was born in the village of Vikhvatnets, in Bessarabia, to a Jewish family of German-Polish origin. His father was a prosperous merchant, and the family were baptized as Christians when Anton was two years old. Three years later they moved to Moscow. A Wunderkind as a pianist—as was his younger brother Nikolai—he began playing in public at the age of nine. His reputation grew so swiftly that his Paris debut in 1841 was attended by Liszt, Chopin, Kalkbrenner and Meyerbeer, and subsequently he became a piano pupil of Liszt. From 1844, encouraged by Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer, he studied composition in Berlin under Siegfried Dehn (who had also taught Glinka), and returned to Russia in 1848 as chamber virtuoso to the Grand Duchess Helena Pavlovna, sister-in-law of the Tsar. In the 1850s Rubinstein travelled widely in Western Europe and was well known to the Schumanns and Brahms as well as to the Liszt circle. In 1858 he was appointed Imperial Concert Director in St Petersburg, with a lifetime pension. As such, in 1862 he founded the St Petersburg Conservatory and until 1867 was its first Director. Thereafter, apart from a punishing schedule of composition, he returned to the career of itinerant international virtuoso. As a pianist Rubinstein had an enormous repertoire and immense stamina—for example, during a nine-month tour in the USA with the violinist Wieniawski in 1872–3 he gave 215 recitals spanning all the major American cities. He returned to Russia and taught again at the Conservatory in the late 1880s, but in 1891 moved to Dresden. His health was failing, however, and he spent his last year on his estate near St Petersburg, on the shores of the Baltic, where he died in November 1894 a few days short of his sixty-fifth birthday.

Rubinstein’s training in composition had been in the Germanic tradition, and he was always associated with the more ‘Western-leaning’ wing of nineteenth-century Russian music. He was also tremendously prolific, writing operas, oratorios, symphonies and concertos, plus a great deal of chamber and piano music and many songs. Although he was viewed as an important composer in his lifetime, for many years his only work to achieve lasting posthumous fame was the comparatively minor Melody in F, and only a fraction of his output of nearly 200 works is known today. He is often viewed as a musician who was betrayed by his very facility: composition came easily to him, and Brahms, who liked and respected Rubinstein as a man and as a performer, complained that he never took enough trouble over his works. Nevertheless such pieces as the Fourth Piano Concerto, the Second (‘Ocean’) Symphony, the collection of 24 ‘musical portraits’ for piano entitled Kamenniy-Ostrov and the opera The Demon show that Rubinstein was capable of making the requisite creative effort, and these works have clung to the fringes of the repertoire. They testify to a highly accomplished composer who was equally at home in the salon and the concert hall, and whose creative devotion to his native country, even if not especially indebted to Russian folk music, was profound.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2009

Albums

Rubinstein & Scharwenka: Piano Concertos
Studio Master: CDA67508Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Rubinstein: Cello Sonatas
CDA67660
Rubinstein: Complete Piano Sonatas
CDD220072CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)
Rubinstein: Piano Quartets
Studio Master: CDA68018Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Rubinstein: Solo Piano Music
CDD220232CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) — Archive Service
Guiomar Novaes – The complete published 78-rpm recordings
APR6015for the price of 1 — Download only NEW
Arthur de Greef – Solo and concerto recordings
APR7401Download only
Grigory Ginzburg – His early recordings – 1
APR5667Download only
Harold Bauer – The complete recordings
APR7302Download only
Liszt: Complete Piano Music
CDS44501/9899CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 15 – Song Transcriptions
CDA66481/22CDs
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 56 – Rarities, Curiosities, Album Leaves and Fragments
CDA67414/74CDs for the price of 3 — Last few CD copies remainingDownload currently discounted
Michael Zadora – The complete recordings
APR6008for the price of 1 — Download only
Paderewski – His earliest recordings
APR6006for the price of 1 — Download only
Pushkin Romances
CDA67773
Rare Piano Encores
CDH55109Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Scharwenka & Rubinstein: Piano Concertos
Studio Master: CDA67508Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
The Maiden's Prayer
CDH55410Helios (Hyperion's budget label)

Complete works available for download

Cello Sonata No 1 in D major, Op 18Jiří Bárta (cello), Hamish Milne (piano)
Cello Sonata No 2 in G major, Op 39Jiří Bárta (cello), Hamish Milne (piano)
Der Asra – Lied von Anton Rubinstein, S554/2Leslie Howard (piano)
Deux Mélodies, Op 3Leslie Howard (piano)
Deux morceaux, Op 30Leslie Howard (piano)
Fantaisie in E minor, Op 77Leslie Howard (piano)
O! wenn es doch immer so bliebe – Lied von Anton Rubinstein, S554/1Leslie Howard (piano)
Pevets 'The singer', Op 36 No 7Joan Rodgers (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Piano Concerto No 4 in D minor, Op 70Marc-André Hamelin (piano), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Michael Stern (conductor)
Piano Quartet in C major, Op 66Leslie Howard (piano), Rita Manning (violin), Morgan Goff (viola), Justin Pearson (cello)
Piano Quartet in F major, Op 55bisLeslie Howard (piano), Rita Manning (violin), Morgan Goff (viola), Justin Pearson (cello)
Piano Sonata No 1 in E minor, Op 12Leslie Howard (piano)
Piano Sonata No 2 in C minor, Op 20Leslie Howard (piano)
Piano Sonata No 3 in F major, Op 41Leslie Howard (piano)
Piano Sonata No 4 in A minor, Op 100Leslie Howard (piano)
Thème et variations, Op 88Leslie Howard (piano)
Trois BarcarollesLeslie Howard (piano)
Trois Caprices, Op 21Leslie Howard (piano)
Trois Sérénades, Op 22Leslie Howard (piano)
Valse-caprice in E flatLeslie Howard (piano)
Valse-caprice in E flatIgnacy Jan Paderewski (piano)
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827))
Die Ruinen von Athen, Op 113Alessio Bax (piano)
FRANZ LISZT (1811-1886))
Einleitung und Coda zu Rubinsteins Étude in C-dur 'sur des notes fausses', S554aLeslie Howard (piano)

Alphabetical listing of all musical works

Album de Peterhof, Op 75 (Rubinstein)
Cello Sonata No 1 in D major, Op 18 (Rubinstein)
Cello Sonata No 2 in G major, Op 39 (Rubinstein)
Der Asra – Lied von Anton Rubinstein, S554/2 (Rubinstein/Liszt)
Deux Mélodies, Op 3 (Rubinstein)
Deux morceaux, Op 30 (Rubinstein)
Deuxième Barcarolle in A minor, Op 45bis: Moderato assai  
Die Ruinen von Athen, Op 113 (Beethoven/Rubinstein)
Einleitung und Coda zu Rubinsteins Étude in C-dur 'sur des notes fausses', S554a (Liszt/Rubinstein)
Fantaisie in E minor, Op 77 (Rubinstein)
Kamennoi-Ostrov, Op 10 (Rubinstein)
Melody in F  
Moy golos dlya tebya i laskovïy i tomnïy 'My voice, calling you with love and longing'  
Noch' 'Night'  
O! wenn es doch immer so bliebe – Lied von Anton Rubinstein, S554/1 (Rubinstein/Liszt)
Pevets 'The singer', Op 36 No 7 (Rubinstein)
Piano Concerto No 4 in D minor, Op 70 (Rubinstein)
Piano Quartet in C major, Op 66 (Rubinstein)
Piano Quartet in F major, Op 55bis (Rubinstein)
Piano Sonata No 1 in E minor, Op 12 (Rubinstein)
Piano Sonata No 2 in C minor, Op 20 (Rubinstein)
Piano Sonata No 3 in F major, Op 41 (Rubinstein)
Piano Sonata No 4 in A minor, Op 100 (Rubinstein)
Première Barcarolle. Moderato  
Quatrième Barcarolle in G major: Allegretto con moto  
Rêve angélique  
Romance in E flat major  
Slïkhali l vï za roshchey glas nochnoy 'Have you heard, beyond the grove at night'  
Soirées à St-Petersbourg, Op 44 (Rubinstein)
Thème et variations, Op 88 (Rubinstein)
Trois Barcarolles (Rubinstein)
Trois Caprices, Op 21 (Rubinstein)
Trois Sérénades, Op 22 (Rubinstein)
Troisième Barcarolle in G minor, Op 50 No 3bis: Moderato con moto  
Turkish March  
Valse-caprice in E flat (Rubinstein)