Historical interpretations of Friderick Chopin works

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Artur Rubinstein - biography


Artur Rubinstein, a Polish pianist, was born on 28 January 1887 in Lodz , and died on 20 December 1982 in Geneva. His extraordinary gift – brilliant sense of hearing, excellent memory, harmonising the melody at sight-reading - was evident even at the age of four. His first music lessons until the age of nine were taught by W. Pawłowska and A. Prechner in Lodz, where in December 1894 he made his fist public appearance as a child prodigy performing pieces by Mozart, Schubert and Mendelssohn. Next, for a couple of months, he was tutored by the pianist and composer Aleksander Różycki in Warsaw. In 1897, supported by the violinist and conductor Josef Joachim, he commenced piano studies at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin under Heinrich Barth, and the music theory and composition under Georg Kulenkampff, Robert Kahn and Max Bruch. His first performance with an orchestra was in Potsdam and Berlin in 1900, when he played Mozart's Piano concerto in A major KV 488, Saint-Saëns' Piano concerto in G minor, pieces by Schumann, and Chopin's Scherzo in B minor. In April 1902 he gave a concert with the Warsaw Philharmonic conducted by Emil Młynarski. In 1903 he was hosted by Ignacy Paderewski in Morges, and in 1904 by Karol Szymanowski in Zakopane. He then became a friend of the composer and a keen exponent of his works. In 1904 he made his debut at the Parisian Nouveau-Théâtre and garnered enormous critical acclaim. This success began his world-wide career. In 1906 he went on his first concert tour in the USA, where he gave over seventy performances. Despite the audiences' great enthusiasm, whereas critical reviews varied, Rubinstein refrained from public appearances for four years to master his piano skills. He later referred to this period as the hard time of transforming from being a child prodigy to maturity. From 1907 to 1914 he gave concerts in Warsaw, playing also as a chamber musician partnered by the violinist Paweł Kochański and the cellist Jan Sebelik. In 1909 he performed in Vienna. In 1910 at the Anton Rubinstein Competition in St. Petersburg he received a special award funded by the conductor Sergey Kusevitsky. In 1911 he performed in Rome and gave two concerts in Russia. In 1912 he performed with Pablo Casals and Jacques Thibaud in London, where he also made his debut as a soloist. Later he performed with the violinists Jascha Heifetz, Roman Totenberg, and with the cellists Emanuel Feuermann, Gregor Piatigorsky and Pierre Fournier. Later in life he made recordings with the violinist Henryk Szeryng and the Guarneri Quartet. During World War I Rubinstein, fluent in eight languages, served as a military interpreter in London, and partnered by the violinist Eugène Ysaÿe he gave concerts to troops. After 1914 he never again performed in Germany, which was done in the act of protest against Nazi war atrocities, which became even more significant after World War II. From 1915 to 1916 he toured in Spain with 120 concerts, playing pieces by Albéniz, de Falla, Granados, Villa-Lobos, Scriabin, Debussy and Ravel to rapturous acclaim. In 1917 he made an equally successful debut tour in South America. From 1919 to 1924 he performed in the USA, and in the following years in Europe. Between 1924 and 1933 and in 1936-1937 he gave concerts in Poland. In 1934 he travelled with concerts across Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Greece and Egypt, and in the following year he toured in Japan, China, North Africa, and towards the end of the year in Australia. The 1936-1937 tour of the USA has been considered the turning point in his career. Over the nine weeks' time he gave 17 concerts playing pieces by Brahms, J. S. Bach (in Busoni's transcriptions), Franck, Poulenc, Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky and Chopin. Critics then hailed him as one of the greatest pianists of all time: “Mr Rubinstein left the audience raving and his piano lame” (Louis Biancolli)”; “His Power and passion were the irresistible expression of a magnificent musical temperament; [...] his bewitching beauty of colour came from a deep poetic feeling [...]” ( New York Times). Other qualities of his greatness were the singing, delicate tone, perfect musicality, and excellent technique which he managed to retain throughout his whole life. He was considered the best interpreter of Chopin and Brahms' music. He was also a keen exponent of contemporary Russian, French, and Spanish music (M. de Falla dedicated to him his Fantasia bética), Rubinstein was often the first champion of their music. He left about 200 recordings, the earliest ones were made on Duo-Art and Ampico piano rolls between 1920 and 1925. His interpretation of Chopin's pieces were published by Gramophone, HMV and RCA Victor. In 1939 he moved to the USA, where he continued his artistic career and in 1946 became a naturalized citizen. He performed with Jan Kiepura in charity concerts for Polish refugees. After WWII he visited Poland five times – in 1958, 1960, 1966, 1975 and in 1979. In 1960 he was the honorary chairman of the jury at the 6th International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. In September 1966 he opened the 10th Contemporary Music Festival “Warsaw's Autumn”. His last performance in Poland took place in 1975 at the Lodz Philharmonic Hall, where he played the Beethoven Concerto in E flat major and the Chopin Concerto in F minor. His last overseas performance took place in London in 1976. In 1974 the first Artur Rubinstein Piano Competition was organised in Tel Aviv. In 1976 he was awarded the American Medal of Freedom. In 1973 and in 1980 he published in London his two-volume autobiography: My young years and My many years. He also worked as a pedagogue tutoring privately and in master classes. His pupils included Eugen Indjic, Dean Kramer, Marc Laforêt.

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