Sunday, July 19, 2009

Meet the Rubinsteins

Les Grands Amateurs de Piano wants me. They are a big amateur piano competition in France. I get mailings from them soliciting my performances. That makes me feel good, I have to say that!

It started when I was a competitor in the first Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs in 1999. I did not advance past the first round but apparently my Schubert and Bach were good enough for these French folks.

Merci beaucoup, Les Grands Amateurs de Piano!

I am getting to my point. Today my mailing from the French piano types contained this paragraph:

One of the Competition's most faithful members has, without doubt, been Mrs. Arthur Rubinstein. Closely associated with our competition since 1989, she has offered unflagging encouragement and support, and been a regular member of the jury. Her presence at our side has been continuous and always enthusiastic. "Arthur would have liked it," she once confided.

Wow, I thought, reading that.

Was Nela Rubinstein still alive?

It seemed impossible. But it sure sounded that way. And all I was thinking was, it would be nice to talk to her for my book on Leonard Pennario. Because he knew her, and he played for her once in Paris after Rubinstein died when she asked Leonard to come to the house.

Well, the bad news is, something must have been lost in translation, because Aniela "Nela" Rubinstein is no longer with us. She died age 93 in 2002.

The good news is, there is this sweet obituary which her family ran. It is more touching than the actual obituary which you can read here.

The other good news is, reading up on all this, I ran across this quote from old Arthur. Who, incidentally, is Arthur with an "h," not "Artur." I have a letter from him to prove it. He signed it Arthur. I am telling you.

Anyway, the quote. It is from a 1983 article in People magazine.

In his 93rd year, nearly blind and an invalid, Arthur Rubinstein, perhaps the most renowned pianist of the modern era, left his longtime wife, Nela, for Annabelle Whitestone, a petite blond secretary 50 years his junior. "To get to be as old as I am," Rubinstein said, "one must drink a glass of whiskey every day, smoke a long cigar and chase beautiful girls." His wife, the maestro complained, "kept telling me what not to do—don't eat this, don't smoke that. I was fed up."

"I was fed up." Can you believe that?

I could not find a good picture of Arthur and Nela Rubinstein but I did find a good one of ol' Arthur kissing Tallulah Bankhead while gossip columnist Hedda Hopper looked on. That is the picture up above!

Here is a picture of Aniela in the kitchen, probably while her husband was kissing Tallulah Bankhead. It makes me like Rubinstein's wife. That is my idea of a good time, too, hanging out in the kitchen.

Rubinstein died at 92. Nela made it to 93.

Whatever their difficulties, they must have done something right.


  1. Knowing things about Rubinstein, I keep thinking "poor Nela". He certainly wasn't choosy. I also know things about Tallulah and had I been Rubinstein, I'd have wondered where that mouth had been last!

  2. I think you should stick to music criticism and not comment on a relationship about which you know nothing. Never beleive what you read in the papers and for your information Rubinstein died a month short of his 96th birthday in 1982. Annabelle Whitestone, whom I happen to know, is neither petite, nor a secretary, she was his manager in Spain and she was over 60 years his junior. I don't find him looking very enthusiastic in your photograph; he was a very polite man and being offered a mouth he probably did his best.

  3. Exactly and if you read his biography you will learn that they met when he was 83 and were together for over 12 years. There is an interivew by David Frost with Rubinstein made in 1982 where he clearly says his last years were his happiest thanks to Annabelle Whitestone. Do a little more research before you write!

  4. Anonymous 2, thank you both for your insights! I dash these posts off kind of fast and it is nice of you to read them.

    One thing, about Annabelle Whitestone being petite or a secretary, that was People magazine saying that. I was quoting the magazine in that italicized paragraph. BTW, first Anonymous, I love your sentence about being offered a mouth he probably did his best! We have all been in those situations.

    Second Anonymous -- I think you are different people -- about Rubinstein's age, it should have occurred to me he was older. But I never said Whitestone did not make him happy! I would imagine that she did. I have read Rubinstein's books and I have thought a lot about her.

    I think I will write a little more about this today. It is such an interesting situation. Thanks so much to both of you -- and always to you, Prof. G -- for your thoughts.

  5. rubinstein was a bastard and treated his wife abominably. Read the Harvey Sachs biography which mrs rubinstein begged him to publish after her death. Also whitestone was a renowned bounty hunter........don't be so naieve

  6. Rubinstein was a great pianist, but I will refrain from commenting about what I think of him as a husband, father, and human being

  7. "Artur is the Polish spelling" "Arthur" is the American spelling.