Rubinstein, Anton Gregorovitch



Well-known pianist and composer, who made an effort to raise the standard of Russian music. He was born at Wechwotynetz, near Jassy. His parents were of Jewish extraction, but owing to the persecution of the Jews, which was taking place at that time, they became Christians. His mother was his only music teacher until his seventh year, when Villoing, a teacher at Moscow, was given charge of his musical education. When he was ten years old he made his first concert tour, accompanied by his teacher, and played before Liszt and Chopin. A year later he made a more extensive tour, including England, Holland, Germany and Sweden. In 1845 he studied for a short time with Dehn at Berlin, but after his father's death he began teaching at Vienna and Presburg, and for a few years had a hard struggle with poverty. In 1848 he returned to Russia, where the Grand Duchess Helen became interested in him and made him Kammer Virtues. He studied eight years at St. Petersburg, and then started on his first tour through Germany. He visited England again, then began a series of concerts at St. Petersburg, and was made Imperial concert director with a life pension. In 1848 he produced two Russian operas, Dimitri Donskoi and Sibirskiji Ochotnkie, The Siberian Hunters. In 1862 he founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and directed it until 1867. He also started the Russian Musical Society. Later he conducted the Philharmonic concerts and the Choral Society at Vienna. In 1872 and 1873 he came to America and gave two hundred and fifteen concerts for which he was paid $40,000. He produced his Ocean Symphony at the Crystal Palace at London in 1881. His opera, The Demon, was given in Italian at Covent Garden, and another of his operas, The Tower of Babel, appeared at the Crystal Palace. In 1887 he again became director of the Conservatory at St. Petersburg. From that time he lived principally at Berlin and Dresden until his death. He held many honors, among them the Vladimir Order, Imperial Russian State Councillor, Chevalier of the Legion of Honor and Knight of the Persian Order of Merit.


It was Rubinstein's wish to be known chiefly as a dramatic composer, but in this he was unfortunate, not only because of some lack of ability on his part but because he lived at a time when Wagner was bringing forth his masterpieces. Among the best known of his operas are Nero, The Maccabees, The Demon, The Tower of Babel, and others, principally on biblical subjects. In other lines of composition are his Ocean symphony, Dramatic symphony,* some of his piano concertos, and his Persian songs. It is more as a performer than as a composer that he is recognized. In technique Liszt may be said to be his only rival. His style of composition resembled that of Mendelssohn. He had great fluency and consequent lack of restraint. His weakest point was his orchestration, for he obstinately refused to adopt any of the new ideas of Wagner, Liszt, and Berlioz.