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Pianos and Pianists - Consultant Editor Ates Orga

Precocious Talent - London 1842



'Les talens précoses sont une exception à la marche lente et graduée de la nature'
- Balliot


John Ella


The Musical Diary of the late Mr [William] Ayrton [1777-1858], now in my possession, contains an interesting description of 'The young Rubinstein,' published in the Examiner newspaper in 1842. The writer speaks of the youth's talent, after hearing him at the late Mr [Thomas] Alsager's, one of the proprietors of the Times, and a well-known patron of music [he created the Beethoven Quartet Society in 1845]. On the margin of the published notice, the writer adds, This is a real prodigy; and by all who have listened to Rubinstein, in the various works performed by him, with equal success, at the Musical Union [subscription concerts, founded by Ella in 1844 and run by him until 1880], any particulars of the early development of his genius will be perused with interest.

'A musical wonder [writes Ayrton] - A Russian boy, named Antoine [sic] Rubinstein, a native of Moldavia [Podolsk district], who has not yet completed his twelfth year [he was born on November 28th 1829], is, and has been during the last few weeks, in London under the care of his teacher, M [Alexander Ivanovich] Villoing [1804-78], with a view to exhibit his extraordinary talents in this metropolis [including being received by Queen Victoria], though we believe that he has not yet performed in public. In private parties he has displayed his powers as a performer on the pianoforte, and excited the astonishment, not only of those who are easily and willingly suprised by youthful genius, but of professors who judge of a performance by its own ability. This lad - who is small for his age, and very slenderly made, though his head is of large dimensions - executes with his little hands the very same music in which Thalberg excels, and to perform which, it has been jocosely said, this celebrated artist has been furnished with five fingers and two thumbs to each hand, put in motion by steam power. We have heard Rubinstein play some of those pieces, and can answer for the unimpeachable correctness of his performance; and what is still more remarkable, for the force which, by some almost unparalleled gift of nature, he is enabled to exert a degree of muscular strength which his general conformation, and especially that of his arms and hands, would have induced us to suppose he could not possibly possess. To gratify those whose taste leads them to prefer fashionable music, he plays the fantasias of Liszt, Thalberg, Herz, &c; but when exhibiting before real connoisseurs, he chooses for his purpose the elaborate compositions of the old German school - the learned and difficult fugues of Sebastian Bach and Handel, all of which he executes with an ease as well as a precision, which very few masters are able to attain; and, to add to the wonder, he plays everything from memory, this faculty being, apparently, as fully developed in him, as it is now and then, though rarely, in adults, who have perfected it by long practice.

'We recommend this prodigy - for such he is - not only to the amateur of music, but to physiologists, or psychologists, who by their inquiries may perhaps enlarge their knowledge of the human mind, and throw some light on that obscure but interesting and, too often, melancholy subject, premature genius, combined, as it is in this instance, with partial premature strength.' - Examiner


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