Anton Gregryevich Rubinstein

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Anton Gregryevich Rubinstein was a Russian pianist, conductor, and composer of the mid nineteenth century, of Jewish lineage, who converted to Orthodox Christianity with his family. He was the older brother of Nikolai Gregryevich Rubinstein.

Life

Anton Gregryevich Rubinstein was born on November 28, 1829 in the village of Vikhvatinets in the district of Podolsk, Russia, (now known as Ofatinţi in Transnistria, Republic of Moldova).The Rubinstein family moved to Moscow, Russia before the birth, in 1835, of his brother Nikolai, where his father opened a pencil factory. About 1840, the Rubinstein family became Orthodox Christians at the direction of his paternal grandfather. Becoming Orthodox Christians allowed the Rubinsteins to travel freely, something not permitted for Jews in Russia at the time.

Anton began piano lesson at the age of five under the guidance of his mother, Katherina Khristoferovna, née Lowenstein, who was a competent musician in her own right. At six and a half, Anton became a non-paying student of Alexander Villoing, a leading Moscow piano teacher, and made his first public appearance at the age of nine in a charity benefit concert. After having spent a year in Paris, France with Villoing in an unsuccessful attempt to audition at the Paris Conservatoire, due to a flood of young prodigies who flood the Paris scene, Anton was introduced to Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt in December 1840. Anton, with Villoing, then took an extended concert tour of Europe and Western Russia, returning to Moscow in June 1843. Then, while touring Russia Anton, with his brother Nikolai, he played for Tsar Nicholas I in St. Petersburg. At the time Anton was 14 years old and Nikolai eight.

In early 1844, Anton and Nikolai, accompanied by their mother and sister, continued their education in Berlin, studying composition and theory, as well as Orthodox catechism, Russian grammar, and other subjects. During the summer of 1846, he remained in Berlin when his mother, brother, and sister returned to Moscow when their father became gravely ill. Now 17 and no longer a child prodigy, Anton attempted to obtain a sponsor for further study, but was rebuffed. In acute poverty, he turned to giving piano lessons while he tried the consort tour.

Forced to return to Russia by the Revolution of 1848, Anton spent the next five years performing concerts, including at the imperial court. By 1852, he had become a leading figure in the musical life of St. Petersburg. During this time he turned to composing. In 1854, he began a four year tour of Europe during which he reestablished his reputation as a virtuoso as well as a composer.

Having gained the sponsorship of Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, sister of Tsar Nicholas I, he and Elena Pavlovna founded, in 1862, the Russian Musical Society. During this time Anton produced some of his greatest works: his Fourth Piano Concerto, Don Quixote and the operas The Demon and Ivan IV Grozny. In 1862, as an outgrowth of the Musical Society he founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory, the first music school in Russia, of which he was the first director.

During the 1872-3 season, Anton toured the United States, giving 215 concerts in 239 days. Returning to Russia, he continued to make tours as a pianist and give appearances as a conductor. He also returned to the conservatory, in 1887, where he embarked on a program of improving its standards. In 1891, he left the Conservatory over imperial demands that entrance to the Conservatory be based on ethnic politics instead of merit. Settling in Dresden, Germany, he gave concerts in Germany and Austria, and occasionally returned to Russia to visit friends and family.

As his health began to fade, Anton gave his last concert in St. Petersburg on January 14, 1894. He moved back to live in Peterhof in the summer of the year and died there on November 20, 1894 of heart disease.

Sources

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