Anton Grigoryevich Rubinstein

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Anton Grigoryevich Rubinstein, Portrait of Ilya Repin (1881)

Anton Grigoryevich Rubinstein ( Russian Антон Григорьевич Рубинштейн : Scientific transliteration. Anton Rubinstein Grigor'evic * 16; jul. / 28. November  1829 greg. In Wychwatinez , Podolia Governorate , † 8. jul. / 20th November  1894 greg. In Peterhof near Saint Petersburg ) was a Russian composer , pianist and conductor .

He is the brother of the pianist and composer Nikolai Rubinstein .


Family background

Rubinstein's Jewish parents (father came from Bessarabia , mother from Prussian Breslau ) decided in 1831 to convert to Russian Orthodox Christianity for political and economic reasons . When Rubinstein was three years old, the family moved to Moscow . His father (1807–1847) ran a pencil factory there, was interested in literature and spoke - like Rubinstein too - Russian, German and French. The mother Kalerija Christoforovna (née Löwenstein; 1807-1891) was a teacher at an imperial educational institute and herself an excellent piano player. The ramified national and religious roots meant that the artist later complained:

“To the Jews I am a Christian, to the Christians a Jew; to the Russians I am a German, to the Germans a Russian, the classics a futurist, the futurists a retrograde, etc. Conclusion: I am neither fish nor meat - a pitiful individual. "


Anton Rubinstein, lithograph by Albert Decker, 1842
Anton Rubinstein, lithograph by Adolf Dauthage , 1855
Anton Rubinstein (right) with his brother Nikolai , 1862

In Moscow, Rubinstein received his first piano lessons from his mother and composed his first piece of music at the age of five, in a training course focused exclusively on music. Due to his extraordinary talent, from 1837 he received free lessons from Alexander Villoing , the most respected piano teacher in Moscow at the time, who imparted comprehensive musical education to his students in addition to his knowledge of playing techniques.

First concerts and tours

On July 11, 1839, at the age of nine, Rubinstein gave his first public concert in Moscow with works by Hummel , Henselt , Thalberg and Liszt . Only a year later, in 1840, he went on his first foreign tour to Paris accompanied by his teacher Villoing . There he got to know Franz Liszt , who promoted him from then on and with whom he was to stay in touch throughout his life. Encouraged by his success in Paris, Rubinstein continued his concert tour until 1843 through various European countries such as England , the Netherlands , Switzerland and Germany . In Breslau he performed his first piano composition Undine .

Training in Berlin

Between 1844 and 1846 Rubinstein lived with his mother, younger brother Nikolai and Villoing in Berlin , where the gifted brothers continued their musical training with Theodor Kullak (piano) and Siegfried Dehn ( counterpoint and music theory ). In addition, friendly contacts arose with Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy , who was Kapellmeister and General Music Director in Berlin between 1840 and 1842.

From “child prodigy” to adult artist

After the economic bankruptcy and the death of the father, the family got into financial difficulties from 1846. While Rubinstein's brother, mother and Villoing returned to Moscow, Rubinstein tried to gain a foothold in Vienna as an artist. This difficult phase of transition to becoming an adult artist was marked on the one hand by Rubinstein's enormous compositional diligence, but on the other hand by the lack of public response. In 1847 he spent in Bratislava in the Esterházy Palace . After an unsuccessful concert tour through Hungary (with the flautist Edward Heindl and the violinist Miska Hauser ) Rubinstein returned to Russia in 1848 and settled in Saint Petersburg .

In his homeland, Rubinstein gradually found attention again, especially as an interpreter of his own compositions, and from 1854 onwards he achieved international fame as a pianist and conductor with regular guest tours through Russia and Europe.

At the court of the Grand Duchess

In 1852 Rubinstein became court pianist with Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna . At court concerts, appearances in aristocratic salons and the semi-professional St. Petersburg University Concerts, Rubinstein recognized that the awakening Russian musical life needed a professional basis. With the support of the Grand Duchess, he organized private musical evenings in 1858 at which classical music and new works by Petersburg composers were performed. He also participated in the founding of the St. Petersburg Singing Academy and worked successfully as a teacher and piano virtuoso.

Founding of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory

In October 1859 Rubinstein was one of the founders of the Russian Music Society ( Russkoe muzykal'noe obščestvo , RMO). September 1862 in Saint Petersburg the first Russian conservatory was founded. Rubinstein became its director and led the choir, orchestra, ensemble and piano classes as well as “practical work and instrumentation”. At the end of 1867, the desire for a broader sphere of activity as well as artistic and organizational differences prompted him to give up his position in Petersburg (he then headed the conservatory again from 1887–1891) and to go on trips again.

The highlight as a pianist: mammoth concerts

Rubinstein around 1887,
painting by Ilja Repin

For almost 20 years - until 1887 - Rubinstein relocated his concert activities mainly to Western Europe. His success there as a pianist was otherwise only achieved by Franz Liszt . From 1871 to 1872 he was the artistic director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna , followed by a successful tour of the USA with the violinist Henryk Wieniawski in 1872 and 1873 . This gave new impulses to American concert life and allowed Rubinstein to mature the concept of his later “Historical Concerts” - a cycle of events that should encompass the central piano repertoire from the beginning to the present.

The mammoth programs of his “historical concerts”, with which Rubinstein brought his concert career to a triumphant conclusion in the 1885/86 season in Russia and Europe , would no longer play a pianist today - out of consideration for himself and the audience.

The pianist played on seven consecutive evenings:

  1. Works by Byrd , Bull , Couperin d. Ä. and d. J., Rameau , Scarlatti , Johann Sebastian Bach , Handel , Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach , Haydn and Mozart
  2. eight (!) Beethoven sonatas , including the Appassionata and op.111
  3. Works by Schubert ( Wanderer-Fantasie , Moments Musicaux , Minuets, Impromptus), Weber ( Sonata A-flat major , invitation to dance , Polacca , Momento capriccioso ), Mendelssohn ( Variations sérieuses , songs without words , Capriccio , Presto )
  4. Works by Schumann , including the Fantasie in C major , the Kreisleriana , the Etudes symphoniques , Fantasiestücke , Carnaval
  5. Works by Clementi , Field , Hummel , Moscheles , Henselt , Thalberg (including the Don Juan Fantasy ), Liszt ( Consolations , Hungarian Rhapsodies , Schubert - transcriptions , Fantasia on Robert le diable )
  6. Works by Chopin : the F minor Fantasy , all ballads, the Sonata in B flat minor , plus preludes, barcarolle , waltzes, nocturnes, polonaises
  7. to the etudes of Chopin Rubinstein's own Sonata in F major and works by his Russian contemporaries Glinka , Balakirew , Cui , Tchaikovsky , Rimsky-Korsakov , Liadow and his brother Nikolai Rubinstein

None of these concerts could have lasted less than four hours. It is hardly surprising that “Van II”, as Rubinstein was called because of its external resemblance to Ludwig van Beethoven , passed out over the keyboard at one of these keyboard orgies in Paris .

Charitable work

In the 1888/89 season Rubinstein developed the courses on the history of piano music : in 32 two-hour talk concerts he explained and played 877 works by 57 composers. He donated the income obtained in this way for the new building of the St. Petersburg Conservatory , which he headed again from 1887 (like the St. Petersburg department of the RMO). He also used his fees for charitable purposes on other occasions. In 1890, one year after his lavishly celebrated 50th anniversary on the stage, he founded an international piano competition, which took place every five years in different European capitals until 1910 (prize money: 25,000 rubles ).

Adoration during his lifetime

Against the background of the prevailing tsarist rank system , Rubinstein's rise from the "son of a merchant" to the rank of nobility was exceptional - he was ennobled to Imperial Russian State Council, was holder of the 3rd class Vladimir Order and knight of the Prussian Order Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts ( 1891).

Deterioration in health

Anton Grigorjewitsch Rubinstein, tombstone in St. Petersburg

In the last ten years of his life, Rubinstein suffered from depression, which was initiated by the sudden death of his brother Nikolai († March 23, 1881) and by the death of his mother († September 29, 1891) as well as the tuberculosis of his youngest son Alexander († September 22, 1893) were reinforced. Since the late 1870s, an eye disease made it difficult for him to read and write music, so that he was forced to conduct by heart. Rubinstein strictly refused to treat an emerging heart condition in favor of an excessive workload until his death in 1894.

Rubinstein married on July 12, 1865 in Baden-Baden the twelve years younger aristocrat Vera Tschekuanowa . The marriage was unhappy due to conflicting interests. From this marriage he left two sons (Alexander, Jascha) and a daughter (Anna).

His grave is in the Tikhvin Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in Saint Petersburg.


Initiator of the Russian music business

Rubinstein was a cosmopolitan both as a person and as a musician , for example he composed vocal music based on German, French and English texts and adored Beethoven . Nevertheless, in the end he felt like a Russian, which he underscored by his committed commitment to the development and professionalization of the Russian music business. Against the criticism of aligning his conservatory according to German models, Rubinstein laid the foundation for a nationwide network of training and performance opportunities and made the profession of musician and freelance artist in Russia possible in the first place.

Interpreter and composer

Rubinstein's different interests and talents were evident in his diverse areas of activity. He had his greatest successes as an interpreter. With his spectacular pianistic performances, which were often described as "musical revelations", he was one of the most successful musicians of his time. He mastered a wide repertoire from Byrd to Mendelssohn . He considered his brother Nikolai to be the better musician, piano virtuoso and conductor.

He himself preferred to work as a composer. That he saw his real destiny in composing can be seen from his letters, in which, since 1867, he repeatedly expressed his wish to give up his exhausting concert appearances altogether. The stylistic maturation of his works was often inhibited because the compositions were created under severe time pressure. Nonetheless, Rubinstein was an extremely productive composer: he wrote seventeen operas , five piano concertos , six symphonies and a considerable number of piano works. The importance of this work for Russian music should not be underestimated - it was groundbreaking for composers like Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov .

Rubinstein was one of the most important composers who were not influenced by Richard Wagner during his lifetime, alongside Johannes Brahms . This may be one of the reasons why his work received little attention for a long time after his death. While Wagner was held in high regard in the 19th century, composers like Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy , Robert Schumann and Frédéric Chopin , who were the main influences on Rubinstein, were considered rather old-fashioned. Another reason for the low level of attention is sometimes given to anti-Semitism , which at the time was particularly widespread in Germany.


The Anton Rubinstein International Music Academy in Düsseldorf is named after him. As a non-commercial society, it supports young, talented musicians in their training.

Works (selection)

Vocal music

  • Russian church choirs o.op., 1851
  • Rusalka (Michail Lermontov), ​​for female choir and orchestra / piano op.63, 1861
  • Songs and Requiem for Mignon (after Goethe ), for solos, choir and piano op.91, 1872
  • Arias or works for solo voice / choir and orchestra / piano
  • numerous songs and Russian romances based on German, French and English texts, including:
    • 12 Persian songs (German by Friedrich Bodenstedt ) op.34, 1854
    • 6 songs ( Heine ) op.32, 1856
    • 10 songs on Serbian melodies op.105, 1877
  • Songs for one voice with accompaniment of the pianoforte
    • The Asra: op. 32, No. 6 . Affiliated person: Heinrich Heine. Kistner, Leipzig [approx. 1890]. Digitized

Stage works

Oratorios and sacred operas

  • Paradise lost (Arnold Schlönbach after John Milton) op.54, 1855/56, Weimar 1858, as sacred opera Düsseldorf 1875
  • The Tower of Babel (Julius Rodenberg), sacred opera 1 act op. 80, 1868/69, Königsberg 1970
  • Sulamith (Julius Rodenberg after the Song of Songs), biblical stage play 5 pictures, 1882/83, Hamburg 1883
  • Moses (Salomon Hermann Mosenthal), sacred opera 8 scenes op. 112, 1887–1889, Prague 1892 (only dress rehearsal), concert performance in Riga 1894
  • Christ (based on a poem by Heinrich Bulthaupt), sacred opera 7 processes plus prologue and epilogue op. 117, 1892–1894, Bremen 1895


  • Kulikovskaja bitva ('The Battle on the Kulikowo Field ') or Dmitrij Donskoj (Vladimir Sollogub / Vladimir Zotov after Vladislav Ozerov), Opera 3 acts, 1849/50, St. Petersburg 1852
  • Sibirskie ochotniki ('The Siberian Hunters'; Andrej Žerebcov), Romantic Opera 1 act, 1852, Weimar 1854
  • Mest ('Die Rache'; Aleksej Žemčužnikov after Michail Lermontov), ​​tragic opera 1 act, 1852/53, St. Petersburg 1858
  • Fomka-duračok ('Fomka, the fool'; Michail Michajlov), Komische Oper 1 act, St. Petersburg 1853
  • The Children of the Heath (Salomon Hermann Mosenthal after Karl Beck), Opera 4 acts, Vienna 1861
  • Feramors ( Julius Rodenberg based on Thomas Moore's "Lalla Rookh"), lyrical opera 3 acts, 1861/62, Dresden 1863
  • Demon (' The Demon '; Anton Rubinstein / Pawel Alexandrowitsch Wiskowatow / Apollon Majkov after Lermontov), ​​fantastic opera 3 acts, 1871, St. Petersburg 1875
  • Die Maccabäer (Mosenthal after Otto Ludwig), opera 3 acts (6 pictures), 1872–74, Berlin 1875, in Russia for reasons of censorship not until 1877 in St. Petersburg
  • Nero (Jules Barbier), large opera 4 acts (8 images), 1875–1877, Hamburg 1879
  • Kupec Kalašnikov ('Kaufmann Kalašnikov'; Nikolaj Kulikov after Lermontov), ​​Opera 3 acts, 1877–1879, St. Petersburg 1880
  • Amongst robbers (Ernst Wichert after Théophile Gautier), Komische Oper 1 act, Hamburg 1883
  • The parrot ( Hugo Wittmann based on a fairy tale from the Persian parrot book "Tuti Nameh"), Komische Oper 1 act, Hamburg 1884
  • Gorjuša ('The Sorrowful'; Dmitrij Averkiev), Opera 4 acts, 1888, St. Petersburg 1889

Ballet music

  • Vinogradnaja loza ('The Vine'), Berlin 1893

Instrumental music

Orchestral works

  • 1st Symphony in F major, Op. 40, 1850
  • 2nd Symphony Okean ('Ocean') in C major op.42, 3 versions: 1851, 1863, 1880
  • Faust , musical picture after Goethe op.68, 1864
  • 3rd Symphony in A major op. 56, 1854/55
  • Ivan Groznyj ('Ivan the Terrible'), musical character picture op.79, 1869
  • Don Quixote , the same after Miguel de Cervantes op.87, 1870
  • 4th Symphony Dramatičeskaja ('Dramatic') in D minor, Op. 95, 1874
  • 5th Symphony in G minor, Op. 107, 1880
  • Rossija ('Russia'), symphonic piece without op, 1882
  • 6th Symphony in A minor op.111, 1886


  • Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 25 (1850)
  • Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major op.35 (1851)
  • Piano Concerto No. 3 in G major, Op. 45 (1853/54)
  • Violin Concerto in G major op.46 (1857)
  • Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 65 (1864)
  • Piano Concerto No. 4 in D minor, Op. 70 (1864)
  • Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, op.94 (1874)
  • Cello Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 96 (1874)
  • Caprice russe for piano and orchestra in C minor op.102 (1878)
  • Concert piece for piano and orchestra in A flat major, Op. 113

Chamber music

  • Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major op.13 (1851)
  • Two piano trios op.15 (1851)
    • No. 1 in F major
    • No. 2 in G minor
  • Cello Sonata No. 1 in D major op.18 (1852)
  • Three string quartets op.17 (1852/53)
    • No. 1 in G major
    • No. 2 in C minor
    • No. 3 in F major
  • Violin Sonata No. 2 in A minor, Op. 19 (1853)
  • Viola Sonata in F minor op.49 (1855)
  • Quintet in F major for piano, flute, clarinet, horn and bassoon op.55 (1855, rev. 1860)
  • Octet in D major for piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass, flute, clarinet and horn op.9 (1856)
  • Cello Sonata No. 2 in G major, Op. 39 (1857)
  • Three string quartets op.47
    • No. 1 in E minor
    • No. 2 in B flat major
    • No. 3 in D minor
  • Piano Trio No. 3 in B flat major, Op. 52 (1857)
  • String Quintet in F major, Op. 59 (1859)
  • Piano quartet in C major op.66 (1864)
  • Piano Trio No. 4 in A major op.85 (1870)
  • Two string quartets op.90
    • No. 1 in G minor (1871)
    • No. 2 in E minor (1871, rev. 1892)
  • String sextet in D major op.97 (1876)
  • Violin Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 98 (1876)
  • Piano quintet in G minor op.99 (1876)
  • Two string quartets op.106 (1880)
    • No. 1 in A Flat Major (1880)
    • No. 2 in F minor (1880, rev. 1892)
  • Piano Trio No. 5 in C minor, Op. 108 (1883)

Piano music numerous solo piano works, including:

  • Rock Island (Kamennoi Ostrov) op.10 (1853–54)
  • Piano Sonata No. 1 in E major, Op. 12 (1848/50)
  • Piano Sonata No. 2 in C minor, Op. 20 (1848/50)
  • Six Etudes, Op. 23 (1849/50)
  • Melody in F op. 3/1 (1852)
  • Piano Sonata No. 3 in F major, Op. 41 (1855)
  • Soirées à Saint-Petersbourg . Six piano pieces op.44 (1860)
  • Five piano pieces op.69 (1867)
  • Album de Peterhof. Twelve Piano Pieces, Op. 75 (1866)
  • Fantasy in E minor op.77
  • Six Etudes, Op. 81 (1870)
  • Theme and variations in G major op.88
  • Piano Sonata No. 4 in A minor, Op. 100 (1877)
  • Sérénade russe (also: Romance) B minor or op. (Ca.1879)
  • Soirées musicales. Nine piano pieces op.109 (1884)
  • Souvenir de Dresden . Six piano pieces op.118 (1894)
  • Valse-Caprice in E flat major or op.

Works for piano four hands / two pianos, including:

  • Fantasia in F minor for two pianos op.73 (1864)
  • Piano sonata for four hands in D major op.89 (1870)


of his own works and of works by Beethoven and Meyerbeer


  • Avtobiografičeskie vospominanija (Autobiographical Memories). In: Russkaja starina , November 1889; English: Autobiography of A. Rubinstein , Boston / Massachusetts 1890; German: Memories from 50 years , Leipzig 1893
  • Muzyka i eë predstaviteli , Moscow 1891. German: The music and their masters , Leipzig 1891; English: A Conversation on Music. Music and Its Masters , New York 1892; Dutch: De muziek en hare grootmeesters - een geprek , Amsterdam 1896.
  • Thought Basket (unpublished); abbreviated as Anton Rubinstein's basket of ideas . Published by H. Wolff, Leipzig 1897; Russian: Korob myslej. Aforizmy i mysli ( Basket of Thoughts. Aphorisms and Thoughts), Moscow 1899


  • Larry Sitsky: Anton Rubinstein. An annotated catalog of piano works and biography. Greenwood Press, Westport CT et al. a. 1998, ISBN 0-313-25497-4 ( Music reference collection 72)
  • Annakatrin Tüsselel: Anton Rubinstein as an opera composer. Kuhn, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-928864-81-5 ( Studia slavica musicologica 23)
  • Philip S. Taylor: Anton Rubinstein: A Life in Music . Indiana University Press, Bloomington et al. a. 2007, ISBN 978-0-253-34871-5
  • Michael Jahn , Clemens Höslinger , forget. Four 19th century opera composers. JF Halévy, A. Rubinstein, K. Goldmark and JJ Abert. Verlag Der Apfel, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-85450-288-3 ( writings on Viennese opera history , 6)
  • Hans von Bülow and Anton Rubinstein . In: The Gazebo . Issue 16, 1888 ( full text [ Wikisource ]).

Web links

Commons : Anton Grigorjewitsch Rubinstein  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Anton Rubinstein's thought basket 1897, p. 422, see writings