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Arthur Rubinstein

An insight into the coveted pianist: his life, career, and greatest achievements

Photo by Wikimedia

Personal life

Considered as one of the greatest pianists in history, Arthur Rubinstein grew up in humble beginnings. He was the youngest of seven children to Felicja Blima Fajga and Isaac Rubinstein, the latter of which owned a small textiles factory

Young Rubinstein was musically gifted even before he learned to talk. When he was just two years old, he already demonstrated perfect pitch and relentless love for the piano. At the age of four, he was considered a child prodigy. As a youngster, he was first introduced to the violin by his father who had a predilection for the instrument. However, Rubinstein turned down the offer as he believed his musical instinct was intended for harmony and polyphony. In other words, the piano.

Rubinstein’s musical genius would eventually be noticed by the eminent Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim. Upon hearing the child play, Joachim was impressed and told the boy’s parents that he’d gladly supervise Rubinstein’s musical education. When he turned ten years old, he moved to Berlin to continue his studies. It was here that Rubinstein gave his first performance alongside the Berlin Philharmonic, kickstarting his career.


Rubinstein moved to Paris in 1904 to begin his professional career. It was within the French capital that he met composers Paul Dukas and Maurice Ravel, as well as the renowned violinist Jacques Thibaud. It was only after playing Camille Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto №2 in the presence of these figures that Rubinstein was noticed for the incredible talent he possessed.

In 1906, Rubinstein made his American debut at New York City’s eponymous Carnegie Hall alongside the Philadelphia Orchestra. This didn’t garner too much attention, however, because he was still considered too young. His career in the United States would prove disappointingly underwhelming until much later.

Eight years later, World War I broke out. Since Rubinstein fluently spoke eight languages, he worked as a military interpreter in London. It was here where Rubinstein performed with the violinist Eugène Ysaÿe, starting the small ripples that would swell into his greater notoriety across the world. While this garnered Rubinstein some attention, it wouldn’t be until his stint in Spain and South America (1916 — 1918) that he would become a swooping musical sensation, performing works by Latin composers Manuel de Falla, Isaac Albéniz, and Enrique Granados.

Upon his return to America in 1937, Rubinstein had found a newfound artistic footing. He would become famous for his interpretation of works by classical masters such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin. He made over 200 recordings and would be awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1976.

Rubinstein died at his home in Geneva, Switzerland, on the 20th of December, 1982, at the age of 95. On his first death anniversary, his ashes were buried in Jerusalem according to his will. Now dubbed “Rubinstein Forest”, it is a plot of land overlooking the Jerusalem Forest…

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