In his 1978 reminiscence My Many Years, pianist Arthur Rubinstein describes an early confrontation with the innovative composer Igor Stravinsky.

Just after World War I, Rubinstein and the cash-strapped Stravinsky were in a Paris recording studio. The composer asked the pianist, “Did you play in your concerts my Piano Rag Music?”

Rubinstein replied that, while he was proud to own the manuscript of it, the piece didn’t suit his preference for music of “the old era.” He added that it was written “for percussion rather than for my kind of piano.”

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Stravinsky argued that Rubinstein didn’t understand the piece. To demonstrate, he banged it out on the piano–about ten times–which made Rubinstein balk all the more.

Stravinsky raged. “You think you can sing on the piano, but that is an illusion. The piano is nothing but a percussion instrument and it sounds right only as percussion.”

Rubinstein blew his top. He said that the public neither liked nor understood Stravinsky’s music and that his orchestra was too loud for them, as had been proven by the riot at the debut of The Rite of Spring. “But for some mysterious reason,” he said, “when I play your music on the piano, it becomes clearer to them and they begin to like it.” He played some of Stravinsky’s Petrushka and demanded, “Does it sound like percussion or like music?”

Stravinsky was so taken with the playing that he forgot all about their quarrel. He said that he would write a sonata for Rubinstein. The two embraced and went to dinner. When the hard-up Stravinsky heard that Rubinstein had been making good money, he complained that pianists became millionaires by playing the music left to them by starving composers–“the starving Mozart and Schubert,” he said, “and the poor mad Schumann, the tubercular Chopin, and the sick Beethoven.”

“He was right,” Rubinstein reflected. “I always felt that we were vampires living off the blood of these great geniuses.”

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