My Young Years “Arthur Rubinstein was a seventh child—gifted not only with the extraordinary talent we all listened to but also with one of the totaller recalls which makes possible this easy, expansive memoir of his years into World War I but also and especially a very happy nature which makes itself manifest throughout. ... These are his 'young years'—resilient and outgoing and full of his musical, social and romanticissimo activities.”
“My Young Years remains a classic autobiography in the grand manner. Unlike the memoirs that now crowd the bookshelves, exercises in self-administered therapy in which narcissistic narrators of no apparent accomplishment whine ad nauseam about real or imagined angst, this is an exuberant account of what Rubinstein calls, in his brief foreword, 'the struggles, the mistakes, the adventures, and ... the miraculous beauty and happiness of my young years.' His was a life lived to the full, with triumphs and disappointments galore, and by the time he reached his 80s and began to write this book, Rubinstein had such great stature that his story virtually commanded readers' attention.”
—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post
Arthur Rubinstein was a Polish American classical pianist who played in public for eight decades. He received international acclaim for his performances of music written by a variety of composers, and many regard him as the greatest Chopin interpreter of his time. He was described by The New York Times as one of the most gifted pianists of the twentieth century.
My Young Years is Rubinstein’s book of personal recollections, providing a record of his life and creative development from his childhood days in Poland to the years of World War I. This edition contains 37 illustrations as well as a foreword and an afterword from the author.
With his uncanny memory, with his unsurpassed gift as raconteur, the adored maestro of the piano at last tells the story of his life—the adventures, the struggles, the amours, the mishaps, and the triumphs—from his birth in Lodz in a large, complex Polish-Jewish family (they would have been happier if little Arthur had taken to the much more “distinguished” violin), to his education among strangers in musical Berlin, to his visit to Switzerland (to be displayed to the Great God Paderewski), to the first concerts, the first (of many) loves, and the first triumphant tours. By the close of the book, the world is deep in its first Great War, and Arthur deep in his great career—perhaps the greatest, in music, of our century.
Here, in photographic detail (and with photographs, too), are the high points and low points of those decades, bringing to life the whole social-musical milieu of a Europe where only the patronage of great aristocrats and millionaire piano-makers could launch a penniless musician; where an affair of the heart in Warsaw could—and did—lead to a duel; where the entrée to musical Paris was through a Proustian haut monde whose habitual luxuries presented a life-hungry youth with constant temptations to extravagance.
Here are the places—each new city an adventure—from Warsaw, Berlin, and Paris to St. Petersburg, Vienna, Rome, London, New York (where Rubinstein awoke his first morning to find himself front-page news for reasons far from musical), and Madrid. And here are the people: Josef Hofmann, already adored in America; the young giant Chaliapin, overflowing with animal vitality; the notorious critic Monsieur Willy and his wife (in hair ribbons) Colette—she teasingly urged the young pianist to disaster his first time at roulette; the reputedly terrifying Saint-Saëns; Stravinsky, Casals, Koussevitzky, Diaghilev, Picasso ... In story after wonderful story Rubinstein brings us into the presence of the great, the near great, the once-great, the teachers gentle or tyrannical, the family, the fascinating circles of friends, who populated his Young Years.
Rubinstein’s life and music have been illuminated with a radiant energy, a magic that could have only sprung from a gargantuan love of life. His book—bursting with anecdote, information, opinion, with life—is a testament to that great gift.