Russian pianist and composer. One of the great virtuosos of his day, he did not join the Russian nationalist movement of his contemporaries, The Five. His music follows a more western European style, but although solidly constructed it lacks the imaginative touch of genius. His many compositions include five piano concertos and six symphonies, including the Ocean (no. 2); he also wrote 18 operas, of which the best known is The Demon (1871) (performed in 1875), and oratorios.
Born at Vykhvatinets, Ukraine, Rubinstein learnt the piano from his mother and from a teacher named Villoing at Moscow. He appeared in public at the age of nine and in 1840 went on tour with his teacher, who took him to Paris and placed him under Liszt for further instruction. He afterwards toured in Europe and studied composition with Dehn in Berlin 1844–46. After teaching in Vienna and Pressburg (now Bratislava) he returned to Russia in 1848, becoming chamber virtuoso to the Grand Duchess Helena Pavlovna. From 1854 he made successful tours as a concert pianist, earning a great reputation in Europe and the USA. In 1858 he was appointed imperial music director at St Petersburg, founding the Conservatory there in 1862. As a composer Rubinstein was antagonistic to the Russian nationalists; his compositions are still little known although The Demon was successfully revived at the Wexford Festival in 1991.
WorksOperas and stage oratoriosThe Demon (after Lermontov, 1875), Kalashnikov (1879), and others.
Vocal and orchestral Songs and Requiem for Mignon from Goethe's Wilhelm Meister for solo voices, chorus, and piano; six symphonies (1850–86): (no. 2 Ocean, no. 4 Dramatic); five concertos and Conzertstück for piano and orchestra (1850–89).
Chamber piano and wind quintet, piano quintet and quartet; four sonatas, Theme and Variations and many other works for piano, including Melody in F, Op. 3/1; songs.
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