Arthur Rubinstein, Jewish pianist

The great Polish pianist was always proud of his ancestry

X Aniversario del Auditorio Fredric Rand Mann (1960-05-14) by Isaac BerezThe Reina Sofía School of Music

Arthur Rubinstein, a Polish American of Jewish origin, was one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century. He established a new understanding of Chopin and many other composers. He had an intense relationship with Israel.

Arthur Rubinstein by Edgar L. ObmaThe Reina Sofía School of Music

Great pianist since his childhood

Arthur Rubinstein was born in Łódz in 1887, the youngest of seven children of a Polish bourgeois family. He started playing piano when he was three years old and made his public debut at the age of 11 under the baton of great Hungarian Jewish violinist and conductor Joseph Joachim.

Viaje a la URSS (1964-09-29) by M. OserkovThe Reina Sofía School of Music

By the age of 15 he was already a renowned pianist, praised by Saint-Saëns, Paderewski and Max Bruch. By 19, he had gone on international tours and played with great success at the prestigious Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow.

Boda Arthur Rubinstein y Aniela (Mlynarska) Rubinstein (1932-07-27)The Reina Sofía School of Music

In 1932 Rubinstein married Aniela Młynarski, daughter of the conductor and founder of the Warsaw Philharmonic Emil Młynarski, in London. The Rubinstein couple had four children: Eva, Paul, Alina, and John.

Gira por Estados Unidos de América (1923)The Reina Sofía School of Music

In 1937 his triumphal tour of the United States with impresario Solomon Hurok made him known worldwide. “He was one of the most extraordinary personalities his century has seen.” (H. C. Schonberg, Pulitzer Prize and New York Times critic).

Primer viaje a Polonia (1958-06-03)The Reina Sofía School of Music

Return to Poland

In the following years he gave concerts all over the world, made several recordings and worked with renowned musicians. However, it would take him 20 years to return to his native Poland, which he did not do until 1958.

Concierto en Polonia después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial (1958-06-03)The Reina Sofía School of Music

There was great expectation in Poland. The concert of his return to Warsaw was a sell-out. The audience gave him the longest standing ovation in the country’s history, second only to Paderewski’s a few years earlier.

Artist and Jewish

Rubinstein had a strong connection with Israel and Judaism. He rejected Italian fascism and, after World War II, refused to appear in Germany. He supported the State of Israel at every opportunity.

Telegrama de Arthur Rubinstein a Benito Mussolini Telegrama de Arthur Rubinstein a Benito Mussolini (1938-09-09) by Arthur RubinsteinThe Reina Sofía School of Music

Against Fascism and Nazism

In 1938, in protest against the anti-Semitic laws imposed by Mussolini, Rubinstein cancelled his tour of Italy and, as we see in his telegram, returned the Duce the decoration of Commander of the Order of the Crown of Italy. Signed "Arthur Rubinstein, pianiste juif"

Arthur Rubinstein ensaya en su casa de París (1959) by Pierre BoulatThe Reina Sofía School of Music

In 1940, before the Germans entered Paris, Arthur Rubinstein moved to the United States, where he became a citizen in 1946.

Libros de Arthur Rubinstein en su casa de París (1938)The Reina Sofía School of Music

During the German occupation of Paris, his books and paintings disappeared from his house.

Visita a la Fábrica de Pianos Steinway&Sons (1963-09-25)The Reina Sofía School of Music

A distant relationship with Germany...

After the Second World War, Rubinstein refused all concerts offered to him in Germany in protest against the anti-Semitism of the Nazi era. He only travelled there for unavoidable engagements and always left before nightfall.

Concierto benéfico de Arthur Rubinstein (1966-06-14) by RosmanThe Reina Sofía School of Music

...and a close relationship with Israel

The great pianist was always very close to Israel. He gave several charity concerts in the country. The photograph shows him at a concert in Tel Aviv in 1966.

I Concurso Internacional de Piano Arthur Rubinstein (1974-09-14) by Israel SunThe Reina Sofía School of Music

In 1974 he created the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition, one of the most prestigious in the world. It takes place every three years in Tel Aviv.

Inauguración del bosque Arthur Rubinstein (1969-10-05) by N. AbramovitzThe Reina Sofía School of Music

In 1969 the city of Jerusalem paid tribute to him with the creation of the “Arthur Rubinstein Forest”, planted by members and friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Arthur Rubinstein’s support for Israel lasted until the end. In 1975, at the age of 88, he offered a recital in Pasadena (California) in aid of the State of Israel. The video shows the beginning, with Beethoven’s “Sonata Appassionata”.

Concierto Arthur Rubinstein, 1975-01-15, From the collection of: The Reina Sofía School of Music
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Bosque Arthur Rubinstein (1983-12-21) by Gregory RozanskiThe Reina Sofía School of Music

Arthur Rubinstein gave concerts until the age of 90. He passed away at his home in Geneva at 95 years old and his ashes lie in Jerusalem, in the forest that bears his name.

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