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Artur Rubinstein Collection Seized by Nazis Donated to Juilliard

By Kevin Shihoten
15 Oct 2007

Artur Rubinstein

Heirs of pianist Artur Rubinstein have donated a large collection of manuscripts, manuscript copies, and published editions taken by the Nazis from the Polish-American's Paris home and recently returned by the German government.

The collection of 71 items was given back to Rubinstein's four children last year by New York Consul General Dr. Hans-Jürgen Helmsoeth in an action the German government has acknowledged to be the first time Jewish property kept in the Berlin State Library has been returned to the legal heirs.

Original autograph scores of Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Rudepoêma, which was dedicated to Rubinstein, as well as autographs by Germaine Tailleferre, a member of Les Six, the group of French composers formed under Satie, in addition to George Antheil's 'Valse profane' with an introduction of fireworks and Alexandre Tansman's 5 Preludes, are among the collection's items.

In 1940, the year German troops invaded Paris, the Nazis confiscated Rubinstein's property from his four-story house, situated in a square off Avenue Foch near the Bois de Boulogne, and transferred his private library to the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Main Office) in Berlin. The pianist had purchased the home in the spring of 1938 and emigrated with his family late the next year to the U.S., where he became a citizen in 1946.

Soviet occupying forces moved the library collection in 1945 from Germany to the USSR. By 1947, Rubinstein was back in Paris but he was not restored ownership of his apartment until 1954. Five years later, the library materials were returned to Berlin (in a partial restitution of German cultural property by the USSR), making their way to the (East) Berlin State Library's music department.

In 1991, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation took charge of the collection; however, the items remained without mark of provenance until 2003 when German experts discovered references to Rubinstein's belongings while researching the whereabouts of assets confiscated by the Soviet Army during World War II. With the assistance of Dutch musicologist Willem de Vries, it was determined the collection was indeed a part of Rubinstein's estate, and Rubinstein's descendants were contacted by the foundation thereafter.

The returned collection, however, is incomplete. "Although [the materials] were clearly marked...as belonging to our father, the Russians did not return all of them," Eva Rubinstein, a daughter of the pianist, wrote in an email to Playbill Arts. "The Glinka Museum in Moscow has kept an important number of the more valuable scores, and so far has made no effort to return them, although they are fully aware of their original provenance."

The donated scores and manuscripts will be part of Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Special Collections and available to scholars and researchers by appointment.

The Rubinstein Collection, the pianist's major collection of papers, is housed in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C and contains around 16,000 items, mostly correspondence.

Juilliard will hold a small ceremony this evening to honor the collection's arrival. Three of Rubinstein's children, Eva, Paul and Dr. Alina Rubinstein, along with musicologist DeVries, will be present. DeVries is the author of Sonderstab Musik (Amsterdam University Press, 1996), which chronicles the activities of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, a Nazi organization established to purge Europe of Jewish cultural life.

Born in 1887 in Lódz, Poland, Rubinstein first appeared in concert at age seven, and studied piano in Berlin with Joseph Joachim and Heinrich Barth. As a young man, he promoted heavily the music of Albéniz, Debussy, Falla, Granados, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Ravel, Stravinsky, Szymanowski and Villa-Lobos, and made more than 200 recordings, including all of Chopin's piano works and three LP versions of Beethoven's complete piano concertos. He gained widespread recognition for his spirited but straightforward interpretations of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and, above all, Chopin.

Rubinstein later authored two autobiographies, My Young Years (1973) and My Many Years (1980), and spent his last years in Paris and Geneva, where he died in 1982.





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