I was happy to read about the Arthur Rubinstein manuscript collection being donated to the School (The Juilliard Journal, November 2007). This is a wonderful addition. Jane Gottlieb’s article highlighted a day that is etched in my memory and I wanted to share with you my recollection of that very special master class in Paul Hall with Maestro Rubinstein.
It was during the first of my four years at Juilliard and I hated the fact that I had to tear myself away from the event early. I was an au pair for the family with which I was living and had to get back to the apartment at Riverside Drive and 77th Street. We’d had quite a snowstorm that day and I remember wrapping garbage bags around my shoes and ankles, held on with rubber bands, because I had no boots! I recall the teaching assistant in my theory class having quite a laugh at my expense upon seeing my less-than-fashionable footwear. But I had the last laugh when a woman stopped to tell me she thought me brilliant for keeping my feet dry in so clever a way.
At the master class, I was in the room long enough to hear one student ask Mr. Rubinstein why he no longer performed in Germany. I can never forget the manner in which that query was posed. The tone was unmistakable—it was meant as a challenge. I was shocked at its rawness, as was most of the audience, and thought it very rude, as if this esteemed artist, a guest in “our home” (if you will), owed anyone an explanation about such a personal choice. This great master, at age 88, had come to share his love of music with students of the highest musical caliber and was challenged by a student whose need for self-importance outweighed common courtesy.
One could see Mr. Rubinstein’s face cloud over with a profound sadness. This was 1975—a mere 30 years after World War II, only three decades, one single generation. In his gentle and quiet manner, nonetheless, Mr. Rubinstein explained the reasoning for his choice never to perform in Germany. It was sadly to be only one year until his professional retirement and seven years until his passing.
No, I will never forget it.
Leslie R. (Goldman) Berro, (B.M. '77, M.M. '78, voice)