My Many Years? What a flat, toneless title for this second flood of Rubinstein memories! And not a very wise one either,...



My Many Years? What a flat, toneless title for this second flood of Rubinstein memories! And not a very wise one either, stressing as it does both A.R.'s longevity (which shouldn't be allowed to become this great musician's claim to fame) and the lumbering, swarming bulk of the many, many years (1917-1979) here. ""I consider myself to be one of the greatest chatterers of this century,"" says Rubinstein, and he also has uncanny powers of recall. So he remembers here hotels, meals, trains, ships, pianos, and people galore--as the grown-up Arthur concertizes all over the world, hobnobs with the rich and famous, makes recordings (reluctantly at first) for RCA, and finally, in his forties, ends a renowned bachelorhood by marrying a demure (though married and divorced, because of A.'s earlier hesitations) young Polish girl. True, there's a lack of dramatic development throughout--especially after the much-awaited marriage--and still not enough about the music itself to please serious listeners. But whenever the travel/party/lifestyle minutiae seem about to mount into tedium, a fascinating moment or personality or predicament will bubble up: Nijinsky's pathetic last public performance in Uruguay; hard-up Elsa Maxwell begging Arthur to play a lousy piano at a party (she'd just sold it to the host); performing for a dandy audience of 16 in Java or being an audience of one for Marian Anderson; fending off lowbrow movie ideas from Jack Warner; encounters with piano-hating Stravinsky (guiding him to a bordello as a cure for impotence, watching him trade insults and compare bank balances with equally testy Rachmaninov); plus women, women, women--elegant groupies, leech-like prima donnas, few of whom were ever turned away. And the pages veritably heat up before your eyes whenever Vladimir Horowitz happens by: both he and Heifetz treated Arthur as an inferior, and Horowitz was rude to boot; but it was largely Horowitz' superior technique (""the greatest pianist, but not a great musician"") that inspired sloppy, brilliant Rubinstein to discover the joys of practicing, of working for technical accuracy. Now 92, partially blind, and very happy (record-listening his great joy), Rubinstein remembers it all with unabashed, goodhumored self-involvement. So--more sparkle than warmth, more detail than necessary, but an undeniably awesome, internationally glamorous, 60-year datebook.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 1979


Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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