The Golden Piano Sound of Arthur Rubinstein

by Lars Nelissen  // updated: June 18, 2022

Click to See all Quotes:  the Golden Piano Sound of Arthur Rubinstein

Arthur Rubinstein quotes:

  1. On his birth town Lodz: “My first musical impressions were formed by the lugubrious and plaintive shrieks of factory sirens.”

  2. “I’ve found that if you love life, life will love you back. People are always setting conditions for happiness… I love life without condition.”

  3. “I was born very, very lazy, and I don't always practice very long. But I must say, in my defense, that it is not so good, in a musical way, to over-practice. When you do, the music seems to come out of your pocket. If you play with a feeling of 'Oh, I know this,' you play without that little drop of fresh blood that is necessary – and the audience feels it.”

  4. “To be alive, to be able to see, to walk, to have houses, music, paintings – it’s all a miracle. I have adopted the technique of living life miracle to miracle.”

  5. “Never sound pompous. You always sound noble, noble. The absolute character of music is nobility. Even popular music can be noble, you see. If it's not noble, then it's not very good... Music is an art of emotion, nobility, dignity, greatness, love, of tenderness. All that must be brought out in music but never a show of pompousness.”

  6. “When my older sister was practicing and made a mistake, I was the one who did the slapping. Half in fun, half in earnest. I learned to know the keys by their names, and with my back to the piano, I would call the notes of any chord, even the most dissonant ones. From then on, it became ‘mere child’s play’ to master the intricacies of the keyboard.”

  7. “My father had a preference for the violin. He presented me a small fiddle, which I promptly smashed to pieces. My instinctive need was for polyphony, harmony, not this single thin tone of a violin.”

  8. “My first teacher was a Mrs. Pawlowska, a typical component of the old school, whose chief effort was to make me keep my elbows close to the body and to play scales without dropping the coin she placed on my hand. After three months of vain struggle, she had to admit her defeat. And my lessons were entrusted to Mr. Adolf Prechner, a strange, slightly demonic person.”

  9. “Music is not a hobby, not even a passion with me; music is me. I feel what people get out of me is this outlook on life, which comes out in my music. My music is the last expression of all that.”

  10. “I'm a free person; I feel terribly free. They could put me in chains, and I still would be free because my thoughts would be mine - and that's all I want to have.”

  11. “When I play, I make love – it is the same thing.”

  12. “Sometimes I think, not so much am I a pianist, but a vampire. All my life, I have lived off the blood of Chopin.”

  13. “When I was young, I used to have successes with women because I was young. Now I have successes with women because I am old. Middle age was the hardest part.”

  14. “When I sit in Paris in a cafe, surrounded by people, I don't sit casually - I go over a certain sonata in my head and discover new things all the time.”

  15. “I feel that special secret current between the public and me. I can hold them with one little note in the air, and they will not breathe. That is a great, great moment.”

  16. “There is no formula for success except an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.”

  17. “You cannot play the piano well unless you are singing within you.”

  18. “The worst enemy of a pianist is the fly. He profits from the opportunity to creep into your nose while you are busy with your hands at the keyboard.”

  19. “When I repeat the same piece at my concerts, I always feel that I am playing it for the first time.”

  20. Stravinsky: “You have it easy, you play a few pieces, and they hand you a good sum of money.” “Igor,” I said, “you play the piano abominably. Your tone is so hard that it could make me hate my instrument.”

  21. 1916 - We met in Madrid at the Café Levante – “Picasso and I talked for hours about everything; we understood each other perfectly. Our good friendship began that night and is still alive after all these years.”

  22. “President Ford bestowed me on the Medal of Freedom at the White House. The President read a long complimentary speech on a specially erected dais, which I answered with a spontaneous improvised one after a sleepless night. The Presidential plane took us back to New York.”

  23. “On my daily visits, I watched Picasso paint the same subject over and over again. I couldn’t resist questioning him about this. ‘Are you painting this subject on commission? -’ What a stupid question,’ he said. ‘Every minute, there is another light. Every day is different too, so whatever I paint always becomes a new subject.’ This was a great lesson to me. I suddenly realized that when I repeat the same pieces at my concerts, I always feel I am playing it for the first time.”

  24. I’m the person who cannot stand obvious injustice. “During the deliberations of the jury in the Chopin Competition, I noticed a hostile attitude toward Michel Block, who had no supporters behind him like the others. I decided to add to the prizes a special one, the Arthur Rubinstein Prize, and bestow it upon Mr. Michel Block.”

  1. “It was my good fortune to make some records with the brilliant Daniel Barenboim and Zubin Mehta. I was lucky enough to have the chance to make new records of the same compositions in the hope of improving them.”

  2. “At most of my concerts, the brain, which helps me to prepare my work, is at peace. It is the inspiration, the urge to transmit the music to the listeners which I like to call soul.”

  3. “My Dutch audience always inspired me to give them my best. Queen Juliana offered a state dinner in our honor. I remember how amused she was when I told her that, as a young boy, I played a concert in honor of her grandmother’s birthday in the presence of her recently married mother.”

  4. “A short, red-headed boy shook his hands timidly and went straight for the piano. With the first few bars of the Appassionata by Beethoven, I felt I was in the presence of a true God-given talent.”

  5. “Richter played three pieces by Ravel. These I had never heard played so beautifully; his ‘Oiseaux tristes’ still remains with me. But then came a complete revelation, the Fifth Sonata of Scriabin. Here Richter emerged as the great pianist we had all heard about”

  6. There was much more than sheer brilliance and technique. “The pianistic exuberance and the technical ease of Vladimir Horowitz made me feel deeply ashamed of my persistent negligence and laziness in bringing to life all the possibilities of my natural musical gifts. It came to a point I seriously considered giving up my ambition of a great pianistic career to become a piano teacher.”

  7. I recorded the violin sonatas by Brahms and my favorite three by Beethoven with Szeryng. “They always wanted me to do them with Heifetz, but I refused because he treated these sonatas as solo pieces with accompaniment.”

  8. The question of schooling was a very important one. “Professor Barth was a formidable personality. I was terrified of him. Nobody before had inspired so much fear in me than this sixty-year-old man! But I soon realized that I was not the only one to suffer when I saw many of his pupils in tears after their lessons. There was a sort of naïve honesty and integrity to his teaching.”

  9. When six years old, I was taken to Joseph Joachim. “The Master took little account of my sister’s elaborate account of my talents. Being suspicious of child prodigies, he planned to find out by himself. After he told my mother: ‘This boy may become a very great musician. He certainly has the talent for it. Let him hear some good singing, but don’t force music on him. When the time comes for serious study, bring him to me, and I shall be glad to supervise his artistic education.”

  10. “I changed my habit very little when I learned new pieces. By reading a few times a work that I wanted to include in my repertoire, I was able to grasp clearly, in my own way, the intentions of the composer. I often used the expression; must speak to me.”

  11. “I see it as a whole work, not giving too much importance to fragmentary passages which can often break the sweep of the whole. At the same time, my memory would absorb the piece unfailingly. There are three kinds of memory: visual, aural, and memory of the fingers. Mine was visual and performed best while playing when I could actually see the printed score and turn the pages in my mind.”

  12. “I never took time to practice note by note. This dreadful negligence remained with me until the years when the recording industry required all the notes to be played properly and faithful to the text. At the same time, it taught the audiences to expect from live performances the same faultless execution.”

  13. “I was determined not to marry. My long experience with women proved to me that the lover has the advantage; he shows himself to the object of his love in the best light and only at moments chosen by himself. Now, look at the fate of the husband. He is always around even if she wants to see less of him.”

  14. Bernstein on Grieg: ‘This music is not even worth talking about.’ “Why did you agree to play those pieces in the first place? You could have asked for some concertos for whom you feel a little more respect. I shall not play with you at all.” He came to my hotel room with loud apologies. “All right,” I said, “but how we play tonight without a rehearsal?” ‘Oh,’ he smiled, ‘I could conduct these works by heart. No problem.’

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