Autobiography of Anton Rubinstein
Translated from the Russian by Aline Delano, Boston, 1890
Chapter IX (excerpt): Artistic Tour in America
The Business Man in the Amusement World: A Volume of Progress in the Field of the TheatreAnton Rubinstein wrote:In 1872 the late violinist Henri Wieniawski and I accepted a manager's proposal to make a concert tour in the United States. [Footnote: Wieniawski was then undoubtedly the finest violinist. His playing was extremely brilliant; he was a bright, witty man, but somewhat feeble. While in America he was quite well, and received for his tour one hundred thousand francs. He died of dropsy in Moscow.] Only two Russian artists had ever visited America, — Prince Galitzin and Slavianski-Agrenev. The contract with the American manager was concluded in Vienna through the agency of the attorney Jacques. I was to receive two hundred thousand francs, half of which sum was deposited by the manager in the bank then and there. According to the terms of the contract, he had no right to take me to the Southern States, the whole route being clearly penned by this legal document. For a time I was under the entire control of the manager. May Heaven preserve us from such slavery! Under these conditions there is no chance for art, — one grows into an automaton simply, performing mechanical work; no dignity remains to the artist, he is lost. . . .
During the time I remained in America we travelled through the United States as far as New Orleans, and I appeared before an audience two hundred and fifteen times. It often happened that we gave two or three concerts in as many different cities in the same day. The receipts and the success were invariably gratifying, but it was all so tedious that I began to despise myself and my art. So profound was my dissatisfaction, that when several years later I was asked to repeat my American tour, with half a million guaranteed to me, I refused point blank. It may be interesting to note that the contract was fulfilled to the letter.
Wieniawski, a man of extremely nervous temperament, who, owing to ill health quite often failed to meet his appointments in St. Petersburg, — both at the Grand Theatre and at the Conservatory, — never missed one concert in America. However ill he might be, he always contrived to find strength enough to appear on the platform with his fairy-like violin. The secret of his punctuality lay in the fact that by the terms of the contract he must forfeit one thousand francs for every non-appearance. The proceeds of my tour in America laid the foundation of my prosperity. On my return I hastened to invest in real estate.
By Robert Grau, New York, 1910
Chapter II (excerpt): The Rubinstein-Wieniawski Tour in 1872-73
Robert Grau wrote:The late William Steinway alone made possible the great musical events which the American public of the 70's and a part of the 80's enjoyed. He it was who provided the capital necessary to bring Anton Rubinstein and Henri Wieniawski to this country in 1872. As evidence that Mr. Steinway was not without public spirit in these matters, it is recalled that when in the following year Maurice Grau, the impresario who brought these virtuosi hither, signified his intention of entering into a contract with the Italian tragedian Tommaso Salvini for an American tour, the broad-minded and generous pioneer of pianistic fame was the one to hand to the impresario, without the least security or the slightest opportunity for personal gain, the ten thousand dollars required as a deposit.
William Steinway did more for musical progress, and did it less ostentatiously, than any American whom history can recall. He built Steinway Hall on East 14th Street, wholly and solely to further musical endeavor; and this large and commodious hall was always at the disposal, without rental, of any one desirous of providing artistic and educational entertainment. Many of the achievements which he promoted there have contributed, in a greater degree, to the present era of musical prosperity than all the efforts of our opera house founders combined.
It will be interesting to record the terms under which Rubinstein and Wieniawski were enticed to these shores. The contract was originally made out in Vienna by Jacob Grau, uncle of the late Maurice Grau, and called for one hundred concerts at an honorarium of $200 per concert for Rubinstein, and $100 per concert for Wieniawski. Jacob Grau met with an accident at Vienna, and Maurice Grau, who had just reached his majority, and had been graduated from Columbia University, forsook law, to enter upon a managerial career. On him fell the responsibility of the tour of these virtuosi. The Russian pianist opened at Steinway Hall in September, 1872, to an audience which represented at the box office $1,700, at that time regarded as something phenomenal. The prices of seats ranged from fifty cents to two dollars; the programme enlisted, besides the two noted musicians, a soprano and contralto, Mesdames Liebhardt and Ormeny.
As an illustration of the public desire for classical music as interpreted by these artists, it is recorded that the largest receipts of the entire tour were at a Monday matinée recital, when $3,100 was taken in at the box office. Rubinstein gave the entire programme himself, and, as it was the first occasion of this kind, it may be set down as having established the precedent for the recital as it prevails to-day. The average receipts at the box office in New York for the Rubinstein-Wieniawski concerts were less than one thousand dollars per concert, while on tour the results were by no means striking for such an attraction. Hartford, always a great musical centre, had three visits, the largest receipts being $2,200, while the smallest was $1,400; Pittsburgh, now a veritable gold mine for similar events, contributed $617, while receipts as low as $500 were often recorded in the larger cities.
Nevertheless, the enterprise yielded a profit of $60,000 to the management, but this was greatly due to the arrangement effected in the middle of the tour with Theodore Thomas' orchestra, which combination constituted by far the greatest amalgamation of musical grandeur that has ever been heard anywhere. Yet this aggregation of genius was available to the public of that time at two dollars for the best seats.
Rubinstein bitterly resented the terms under which he was induced to visit America, and the feeling between him and his impresario, while not strained, was none too friendly; he vowed he would never return to America, however large the offer would be, and although Mr. Grau made many strenuous efforts to prevail on him, in after years, and offered as high as $3,000 per concert, the Russian always declined.
Rubinstein was characterized by the New York Herald as a lion in person and a giant in art, and this description fits his personality admirably.
Wieniawski, the violinist, was almost as great from an artistic point of view, as the distinguished pianist himself, but he was handicapped by his very association with his illustrious confrère, and he, too, was never induced to come hither again, though his proverbial geniality precluded any feeling of bitterness against his impresario, and the two remained intimate friends for many years.
Henri Wieniawski was the greatest violin virtuoso heard since Joachim, and none of the great exponents of that instrument who have visited this country since Wieniawski's day could compare with him; yet he was paid but $100 per concert.
Surely we are living in a most propitious era, at least from a musical standpoint, for the earnings of our modern soloists are simply prodigious in comparison. Paderewski often received, for one concert, as much as Rubinstein obtained for ten, while Ysaÿe and Kubelik were favored in no less a degree as compared with Wieniawski.