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.
Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894)
Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein (Russian: Анто́н Григо́рьевич Рубинште́йн) (November 28 1829 – November 20 1894) was a Russian pianist, composer and conductor. As a pianist he ranks amongst the great nineteenth-century keyboard virtuosos. He founded the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, which, together with the Moscow Conservatory founded by his brother Nikolai Rubinstein, were the first music schools of their type in Russia.
Rubinstein was born to Jewish parents in the village of Vikhvatinets in the district of Podolsk, Russia, (now known as Ofatinţi in Transnistria, Republic of Moldova). 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 [the above quotation] in his notebooks.