Friday, March 12, 2010

The pedal is the soul of the piano

I think many pianists would agree with this quote. But who said it? If you google it, you'll find it attributed to Arthur Rubinstein by several sources. But Stephen Hough says that it was Anton, not Arthur who made this comment.

The Wikipedia page about Anton Rubinstein is fascinating.

I couldn't resist adding Hough's citation of this aphorism to that page.

I particularly enjoyed the opening of the article, which sets you up for Rubinstein's comment about himself:
Rubinstein was born to Jewish parents in the village of Vikhvatinets in the district of Podolsk, Russia, (now known as OfatinĊ£i in Transnistria, Republic of Moldova), on the Dniestr River, about 150 kilometers northwest of Odessa. Before he was 5 years old, his paternal grandfather ordered all members of the Rubinstein family to convert from Judaism to Russian Orthodoxy.

Rubinstein, brought up as a Christian at least in name, lived in a household where three languages were spoken—Yiddish, Russian and German. Much later, when his musical "Russianness" was called into question by musical nationalist Mily Balakirev and others in The Five, Rubinstein might have been thinking of this part of his childhood, among other things, when he wrote in his notebooks,

“Russians call me German, Germans call me Russian, Jews call me a Christian, Christians a Jew. Pianists call me a composer, composers call me a pianist. The classicists think me a futurist, and the futurists call me a reactionary. My conclusion is that I am neither fish nor fowl – a pitiful individual”

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