Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Rubinstein, Anton Grigor’evich


Born Nov. 16, (28), 1829, in the village of Vykhvatintsy, in what is now Rybnitsa Raion, Moldavia SSR; died Nov. 8 (20), 1894, in Peterhof (now Petrodvorets). Russian pianist, composer, conductor, teacher, and musical and public figure.

Descended from a Jewish merchant family of modest means, Rubinstein studied piano under the guidance of his mother and later, with the pianist A. I. Villoing. At age ten he gave a public piano recital in Moscow. Between 1840 and 1843 he gave highly acclaimed concerts in various European cities. His first compositions were published during this period. From 1844 to 1848 he lived abroad in Berlin and Vienna, where he studied music theory with S. Dehn and met Mendelssohn and later, Liszt, both of whom influenced the development of his creative personality. Returning to Russia in 1848, Rubinstein settled in St. Petersburg. He gave piano recitals and appeared as a conductor, performing primarily his own works.

From 1854 to 1858, Rubinstein toured Western Europe. After returning to Russia, he concentrated on public activity related to music. He initiated and supervised the organization of the Russian Music Society in 1859. A member of its board of directors, he also appeared as a conductor and pianist in all of the society’s concerts, and he headed its music classes. In 1862 he founded Russia’s first conservatory, the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he served as director and professor from 1862 to 1867 and from 1887 to 1891. Rubinstein directed the conservatory’s orchestra and choir and taught the piano, ensemble, and orchestration courses. Tchaikovsky was one of his students.

In 1872–73, Rubinstein made a triumphant tour of the USA with the violinist H. Wieniawski. In 1885–86 he gave a series of “historical concerts” in the major cities of Russia and Western Europe, describing the evolution of piano music from its origins to the works of contemporary Russian composers. During the last years of his life (1891–94), Rubinstein spent most of his time in Dresden, making trips to various cities for benefit concerts and focusing on literary pursuits, composition, and teaching. J. Hofmann studied with him in Dresden.

One of the greatest pianists, Rubinstein was the founder of the Russian pianistic school. An inspired improvisational quality was characteristic of his artistry, which often violated the traditional canons of performance. As a composer he left a large legacy in all the principal genres. Among his best compositions is the opera The Demon (1871, based on M. Iu. Lermontov’s poem; staged 1875, Mariinskii Theater, St. Petersburg). He wrote the operas The Children of the Steppe (1861), Feramors (based on T. Moore’s poem-legend Lalla Rookh, 1863), The Tower of Babel (1870), The Maccabees (1875), Nero (1877, staged 1879), The Merchant Kalashnikov (1879, based on Lermontov’s poem; staged 1880, Mariinskii Theater), and The Careworn One (based on D. V. Averkiev’s novella The Night of Scented Hop, 1889). Rubinstein composed six symphonies, five concerti for piano and orchestra, many piano works, art songs, and songs (for example, The Persian Songs). Among his publications are his Autobiography, 1829–1889 (1889) and Music and Its Representatives: A Discussion About Music (1891). Rubinstein was responsible for the organization of an international pianists’ and composers’ competition (1890).


Barenboim, L. A. A. G. Rubinshtein: Zhizn’, artistichesskii put’, tvorchestvo, muzykal’no-obshchestvennaia deiatel’nost’, vols. 1–2. Leningrad, 1957–62.
Na urokakh Antona Rubinshteina (edited, compiled, and with an introduction by L. A. Barenboim). Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.