November 28, 1830 – November 20, 1894
Born – Russia
Nicknamed “Van II” (the heir to Beethoven) by Liszt, the “Michelangelo of Music” by Hans Von Bulow, and the “Hercules of the Piano” by Ludwig Rellstab, and the “Spiritual Father” of many of the 20th centuries greatest pianists, Anton Rubinstein was the considered greatest master of the piano, since the retirement of Liszt, who claimed him as his successor.
Anton Rubinstein, pianist, composer, teacher and writer, began his concert piano career at the age of 11 after performing a concert in Paris at which Chopin and Liszt attended. This event allowed him to meet these famous musical figures and launched for him a successful 3½ year concert tour of Europe and Russia.
After this tour he moved to Berlin than Vienna, where his musical activity and notoriety slowed down tremendously forcing him to begin offering piano lessons in order to make ends meet. His career began to pick up again when he was about 19 when he moved back to Russia where over the next several years became one of Russia’s leading musical figures. This led to a highly successful 4 year tour of Europe. His fame brought him to the United States during the 1872-73 season for an intensive tour where he performed an amazing 215 concerts over 239 days!
In 1862, Rubinstein founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory which was the first music school in Russia. The school was meant to increase the level of musical education within Russia. However, the school was met with resistance by the “Five”, a group of prominent Russian composers who had established the Russian Nationalist musical style and where committed to protecting it. Despite this resistance, the school grew to become one of the most famous musical schools. Interestingly, his younger brother Nikolai, also a pianist, founded the Moscow Conservatory.
Of particular note regarding Rubinstein’s playing style, he believed that the pedal was the “soul” of the piano and consequently, developed his own style of pedaling. His playing was also characterized as deeply spiritual and born from inspiration. Unfortunately, Rubinstein died before the invention of recording devices.
Rubinstein composed throughout his life, composing operas, 5 piano concertos, 6 symphonies, a ballet, many solo piano pieces, chamber music and other orchestral music. His most notable compositions include: