VIDEO PODCAST: Women Composers - Our special hour-long illustrated feature on women composers includes contributions from Diana Ambache, Gail Wein, Hilary Tann, Natalie Artemas-Polak and Victoria Bond.
The Russian composer and pianist Anton Grigoryevich Rubinstein was born at Vikhvatinets on 28 November 1829 and died near St Petersburg on 20 November 1894. After Franz Liszt, he was considered the greatest pianist of the nineteenth century. A child prodigy, and widely travelled throughout Europe, Rubinstein had a great influence on Russian musical life, founding the St Petersburg Conservatory (where Tchaikovsky, a friend of Anton's brother - Nikolay Rubinstein - was among his students) and the Russian Musical Society.
Music historians remain critical of Rubinstein's compositions, for melodies that are pleasant but often lacking in originality. The composers of the St Petersburg School (especially Balakirev, who thought Rubinstein had a bad influence on Russian music) ganged up against him, and insults flew in both directions. With his German-Jewish origins, Rubinstein was poised somehow between East and West, writing, in his Gedankenkorb (confessions), that 'for Christians, I am a Jew, for Jews, I am a Christian; for the Germans, I am Russian, for the Russians, I am German; for the classically minded, I am avant-garde, for the avant-garde, I am reactionary'.
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