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Pianos and Pianists - Consultant Editor Ates Orga

Precocious Talent - London 1842



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It is as well to inform the readers of this glowing description of 'a real prodigy,' that the writer, Mr Ayrton, was a sound musician [a founder member of the (Royal) Philharmonic Society, 1813], a scholar [Fellow of both the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society, an original member of the Royal Institution and Athenaeum], and an independent critic [Morning Chronicle, 1813-26; Harmonicon, editor 1823-33; Examiner, 1837-51], who had neither pupils nor protégées. His Diary contains all his articles on music that appeared in the Examiner newspaper from the year 1847 to 1856, with annotations, and descriptions of certain London critics in [from] other journals. Of Rubinstein, in the twenty-eighth year of his age, the following notice, in 1857, is fully borne out by a more intimate acquaintance with his talent:

'His ardent temperament is at once recognised, both in the character of his compositions and in the vigorous expression of his playing. To those who prefer the passive, inanimate style of running over the keys, without emphasis and chiaro-scuro, Rubinstein's power of execution will give cause for alarm. The amateur is simply directed to this fact, in respect to tone and touch; any amount of force from the wrist only can never strain the action of the pianoforte beyond the resistence of its mechanism. On the other hand, it is very easy, by contraction of the muscles from the shoulder [Rubinstein followed Liszt in freely using his arms and "the weight of his body and shoulders" (Lhevinne)], to break a string with the single blow of a finger. The touch of Rubinstein is delicate and souple in the extreme, where the character of the music demands delicacy and elegance of expression (as instanced in his poetical version of Chopin's Berceuse in 1857, encored); and in music of impassioned colouring, his youthful, ardent nature yields to the impulse of the moment. His mechanism, at eleven years of age, was equal to the performance of the most complicated fugues of Bach, and brilliant tour de force of Thalberg's fantasias, and the ease with which he now plays the most difficult music is perfectly astounding! Whatever excess of passion may be observed in his occasional bursts of expression, age will ultimately sober down; but where the absence of this passion is perceptible in the temperament of an artist, nor age, nor clime, nor study, can supply the want.' - 1859 [sic]

In a tour throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland, and in a series of pianoforte recitals in London, 1877, Rubinstein realized in three months £12,000! No such amount was ever obtained by vocalist or actor in England in the same space of time.' [When, during the 1872-73 season, Steinway lured Anton to promote their instruments across gun-law America, they paid him $200 per appearance - a sizeably handsome percentage of the $1,800 asking price for their 8'10" New York grands being advertised the following decade. 215 concerts in 239 days. $43,000 in gold. The same campaign today, comparably ratioed - two million. AO]


- John Ella (1802-88), 'Rubinstein, born 1829 Precocious Talent - London, 1842,' Musical Sketches Abroad and at Home [Records of the Musical Union], London 1869, rev 3rd ed 1878, pp 259-62


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