Back when I was a kid, Rubinstein was one of the Big Three artists, along with Serkin and Horowitz. (Richter would come along a few years later to make it the Big Four). In those days, Horowitz had withdrawn from public performances, was a recluse, and was mostly known by my generation from some of his recordings. He did, of course, reemerge later on. Serkin tended to specialize in Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert mostly. Although I attended a number of Serkin's recitals and concerts and respected his wonderful abilities, Viennese Classics was just not my thing, as I preferred the Romantics, Impressionists and Late Romantics. And then there was Rubinstein. In my mind, then and now, he was tops. His Chopin was extraordinary. His repertoire also included a good deal of Schumann, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Villa Lobos, Szymanowski and others.
I well recall one of Rubinstein's recitals I attended at Symphony Hall in Boston. The ushers have a tradition of ringing bells before closing the hall's doors to late comers. They rang them, but there was no need--every seat in the hall was already occupied. Stage seats were set up around the back and sides of the stage for the conservatory students. The air was absolutely electric, as a Rubinstein recital was an event. Anticipation ran high. When the stage door opened, Rubinstein came out on stage with aplomb to thunderous applause and he took some bows also acknowledging those in the balconies. He was very aristocratic and it was as if he owned the hall. It was amazing to watch. That day he played an early Beethoven sonata, intermezzi and rhapsodies of Brahms, Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales, mazurkas of Szymanowski, and a nocturne and scherzo of Chopin. He was in his early 70s then, but played beautifully giving us an inspiring Beethoven, the golden, burnished sound of Brahms, a delightful and poignant Ravel, sympathetic renditions of Szymanowski, and magisterial Chopin renditions.
Rubinstein was imbued with la joie de vie, and played piano in the grand manner. He knew many of the important composers, pianists and pedagogues from the Golden Age of piano. I feel privileged to have seen him perform in person. I'll never forget him.
"Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities." David April
Last edited by Rachfan on Wed Mar 25, 2009 2:54 am, edited 1 time in total.