The Kennedy Center

Anton Rubenstein



Biography

Russian pianist, composer, and conductor Anton Rubenstein (1829-1894) is considered one of the great piano virtuosos of the nineteenth century. In his day, he rivaled the great Franz Liszt as a pianist. At age 5, Rubenstein began taking piano lessons with his mother. He progressed rapidly and a within a year-and-a-half was taking lessons from Alexander Villoin, Moscow’s leading piano teacher. Rubenstein made his public debut at age 9.  Later that year, Rubenstein went to Paris with Villoin to enroll in the Conservatory, but he was not granted an audition because there were too many other young prodigies who had applied. Rubenstein nevertheless remained in Paris and, in 1840, played at a concert whose audience members included Chopin and Liszt. Chopin invited Rubenstein to play for him, and Liszt acclaimed the young pianist as his successor but advised Villoin to take the young boy to Germany to study composition. Instead, Villoin took Rubenstein on an extended concert tour of Europe and Western Russia, which lasted more than three years. On their return to Moscow, Rubenstein’s mother, having spoken to Liszt, sent her son to Berlin to complete his musical education. After some years of study, Rubenstein eventually settled in St. Petersburg, where he founded the Conservatory and devoted himself to improving musical education in Russia. He continued to give memorable concerts throughout his life. He was known for his virile, fiery playing and sensuous tone, although his technique was often slap dash. Rubinstein once told the young Rachmaninov how he achieved that tone. “Just press upon the keys until the blood oozes from your fingertips.”
Anton Rubenstein