Whatever Happened to Arthur Rubinstein
Arthur Rubinstein was born in 1887 and died in 1982, six years after making his last recordings for RCA and giving his farewell concert at London’s Wigmore Hall. He played in public for eight decades, marking perhaps the longest career of any performing musician. Throughout the second half of that career, he was, after Vladimir Horowitz, the most famous pianist in the world. And in old age he added considerably to his fame by appearing on TV and publishing two chatty volumes of reminiscence, My Young Years (1972) and My Many Years (1980); the first, in an unprecedented honor for a classical musician, was chosen as a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club.
Rubinstein was more than just a crowd-pleasing virtuoso with a knack for self-promotion. He was admired by some of the most thoughtful listeners of his time. In 1949, the distinguished composer and critic Virgil Thomson reviewed a Rubinstein recital in extravagant terms:
Others may be regularly more flashy, though few can dazzle so dependably; and none can match him for power and refinement. He plays very loudly and very beautifully, very softly and thoroughly clean, straightforwardly, elegantly and with a care for both the amenities of musical discourse and the clear transmission of musical thought. He is a master pianist and a master musician. There has not been his like since [Ferruccio] Busoni [1866-1924].
About the Author
Terry Teachout is COMMENTARY’s critic-at-large and the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal. Satchmo at the Waldorf, his first play, runs through November 4 at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.