The Nikolay Grigor’yevich
Rubinstein Museum

The Oval Hall. Photo by D. V. Rylov, 2011

The idea of opening a museum as part of the Moscow Conservatory had been hovering in the air for a long period of time; however, the decision about opening it was made only on February 3, 1910 at an assembly of the Directorate of the Imperial Russian Musical Society (IRMS). At that time the Conservatory was directed by Mikhail Mikhaylovich Ippolitov-Ivanov. The financial support, indispensable for providing the museum with equipment and designing its outward appearance, was given by the Conservatory, the IRMS and one of its active members, a great friend of Ippolitov-Ivanov, D.F. Bel’iayev (subsequently, from 1919, the custodian of the Museum). Finally, on March 11, 1912, on the 31st anniversary of the death of Nikolay Rubinstein, the ceremonial inauguration of the Museum, named after the great artist, took place in the First Tutorial Building.

The collection of unique objects, on the basis of which the Conservatory Museum was created, was started immediately after the inauguration of the Moscow Conservatory (1866) through the efforts of Nikolay Rubinstein and his supporters, among which mention must be made first of all of Prince Vladimir Feodorovich Odoyevsky – a remarkable connoisseur of music, musicologist and writer. After Odoyevsky’s death in 1869, his widow, following the wishes of her late husband, donated to the Conservatory his immense collection of books and musical instruments. When Nikolay Rubinstein passed away, his personal belongings and the objects of domestic usage, the valuable manuscripts, autograph scores, publications and iconographic materials also provided valuable additions to this treasury of the Moscow Conservatory. One of the greatest acquisitions of the Conservatory in the late 1880s was a collection of musical instruments of Central Asia and Kazakhstan gathered by Avgust Feodorovich Eichhorn. Ippolitov-Ivanov entrusted the job of equipping the Museum with its necessary facilities to Evgeny Aleksandrovich Kolchin – violinist, violist, teacher, public musical figure and photographer, who at that time was the Conservatory’s librarian and subsequently the first custodian of the Museum – and I.P. Petrov, the inspector of the Conservatory building, who had a remarkable knowledge regarding the maters of managing the facilities.

However, subsequently, the Nikolay Grigor’yevich Rubinstein Museum went through difficult times. In the early 1930s, taking advantage of Evgeny Kolchin’s absence, the assistant to the rector who dealt with financial affairs ordered all the archives and possessions of the Museum to be removed into the Grand Hall of the Conservatory and left in the foyer of the first amphitheater without any supervision. In the process, many of the Museum objects were broken, lost and, in all possibility, even stolen, since, it must be remembered that at that time the cinema theater “Colossus” was in operation on the premises of the Grand Hall of the Conservatory, and the audience tended to gather in the hall prior to the cinema show. Nevertheless, being entirely devoted to his museum, Evgeny Kolchin was still able to gather the remaining Museum treasures and open it at a new venue within the Conservatory.

On May 22, 1943 the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR issued Decree N.571 concerning the official rates of wages for museum employees; in the supplementary list of museums attached to it the Rubinstein Museum was rated as belonging to the lower category of museums in its significance. Following that, on August 31 1944 the Committee for the Affairs of Art affiliated with the Council of People’s Commissars enforced the Provision about the State Central Museum of Musical Culture. Already in the mid-1940s the name of Nikolay Rubinstein was dropped from the name of the museum, even though actual document of the decree concerning the cancellation of its name has still not been discovered. In 1954 the Museum was given another name – that of Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka, the 150th anniversary of whom was being broadly commemorated throughout the country. Nonetheless, the Museum continued to remain in the building of the Grand Hall of the Conservatory for a lengthy period of time, in the area where exhibitions were formally organized and all sorts of various activities were carried out. Only in 1964 it was moved to the “Chambers of the Troyekurovs” – a historical mansion, which is an architectural landmark from the 18th century, situated on Georgievsky Lane. Thus it happened that the Moscow Conservatory was deprived of its own museum.

Finally, in February 1992 the Museum finally became restored within the structure of the Moscow Conservatory. It was allocated in the Third Tutorial Building in class N.318. Its director became Professor in History of the Visual Arts, Candidate of Art History Oleg Sergeyevich Semyonov (unfortunately, he passed away suddenly in August 1994).

On April 4, 1995 the Advisory Board of the Rubinstein Museum was created, which included faculty members from different departments and interdepartmental sub-departments in the Conservatory, headed by Pro-Rector for Research and Creative Work, Professor Aleksandr Sergeyevich Sokolov. On May 30, 1995, at a session of the Advisory Board of the Moscow Conservatory, upon the recommendation of Professor Aleksey Ivanovich Kandinsky, the Museum in the Moscow Conservatory was once again given the name of Nikolay Grigor’yevich Rubinstein.

In January 1995 the Museum was returned to its previous location – the Oval Hall situated on the level of the first Amphitheater of the Grand Hall of the Conservatory. And in September 1995 it was also presented with the premises on the level of the First Amphitheater which were vacated after the State Collection of Musical instruments had been moved. This is how the Storage Department and the Exhibition Hall of the Museum were established. In addition, the Museum was granted the possibility to organize both permanent expositions devoted to the history of the Moscow Conservatory and temporary exhibitions timed for significant dates and anniversaries in the foyer of the first amphitheater and on the main floor of the Grand Hall of the Conservatory.

The permanent exhibitions created after the restoration of the Nikolay Grigor’yevich Rubinstein Museum at the Moscow Conservatory present its history in chronological order.

The first of these expositions, which was opened on October 3, 1995 in the Oval Hall of the Museum, is called: “The Moscow Conservatory: Episodes of its History. 1866-1922.” It presents artifacts from those period of the work of this institution when it was directed by Nikolay Rubinstein, Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev, Vasily Il’ich Safonov and Mikhail Mikhaylovich Ippolitov-Ivanov.

Each section of the exposition includes portraits, documents, textbooks, musical compositions and texts by the directors of the Moscow Conservatory and the professors who were employed in it – composers, performers and musicologists.

An extremely ornate wall, framed with an arch, displays a number of objects connected with the era of Nikolay Grigor’yevich Rubinstein and Pyotr Il’ich Tchaikovsky. Its direct continuation is in the section of the exposition devoted to Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev. The self-supporting stands and the show-cases adjoining them demonstrate materials from the Conservatory’s classes of piano and composition, as well as the Department of History of Church Singing. Performers on string and wind instruments, as well as singers have also not been bypassed in terms of attention.

The Oval Hall. Photo by V. N. Kraynov, 2003

Exhibits for the newly restored Nikolay Grigor’yevich Rubinstein Museum have been gathered from around the entire Conservatory, in correspondence with the old Russian saying: “gather a piece of string from all around.”

Thus, the Reference Room of the Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev Music Research Library in 1995 gave the Museum a bust of the outstanding musician, pianist and conductor Nikolay Grigor’yevich Rubinstein (Unknown Painter; late 19th century), the founder of the Moscow Branch of the Russian Musical Society and the Moscow Conservatory, its first director and professor.

N. G. Rubinstein. Unknown Painter. Late 19th century.

The portrait of the great Russian composer, conductor, music critic, public figure in the sphere of music and professor of the Moscow Conservatory, Pyotr Il’ich Tchaikovsky (sculptor Aleksei Petrovich Mayraslov, end of 20th century) was donated to the Museum by rector of the Moscow Conservatory Aleksandr Sergeyevich Sokolov from his office.

P. I. Tchaikovsky. Sculptor Aleksei Petrovich Mayraslov, 1986.

It is known that Tchaikovsky esteemed highly the music of Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka and always emphasized his fundamental significance for the development of Russian music and, when giving a performance at the ceremonial inauguration of the Moscow Conservatory, performed his piano transcription of the overture to “Ruslan and Ludmila.” This is why when the exposition was being designed in the Museum’s Oval Hall it was decided to include init the picturesque portrait of Mikhail Glinka, which had been found accidentally in the storage room of the First Tutorial Building in 1991. Experts in works of art determined that this canvas was painted by the artist Apollinary Gil’iarovich Goravsky (1833–1900) in 1869 upon a commission of Pavel Mikhaylovich Tretyakov (1832–1898).

M. I. Glinka. Portrait by A. G. Goravsky. 1869.

The marble bust of the other great Russian composer, musicologist, pianist, conductor and public musical figure Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev (made by sculptor Aleksey Petrovich Mairaslov in 1986), the director of the Moscow Conservatory and a professor in, was located for a long time in the office of the administrator of the Rachmaninoff Hall.

S. I. Taneyev. Sculptor Aleksei Petrovich Mayraslov, 1986.

The picturesque portrait of Vasily Il’ich Safonov (painted by artist Vasily Nikolayevich Yakovlev in 1944), pianist, conductor, public figure in the sphere of music, professor and director of the Moscow Conservatory, was given to the Museum from the Reference Room of the Sergey Ivanovich Taneyev Music Research Library.

V. I. Safonov. Portrait by V. N. Yakovlev. 1944.

The bronze bust of the well-known Czech violinist and professor of the Moscow Conservatory Ferdinand Laub [Электронная ссылка] (made by sculptor Otakar Ŝpaniel in the mid-20th century) was donated to the Moscow Conservatory in commemoration of its centennial anniversary in 1966 by the Prague Conservatory, and since then has stood in class N.15 of the First Tutorial Building, the favorite class of many violin professors. Upon the recommendation of Professor Tatiana Aleksandrovna Gaidamovich, this sculpture portrait by Otakar Ŝpaniel was transferred to the Museum in 1995.

Close to from the bronze bust of Ferdinand Laub we can see the portrait of his successor – the outstanding Czech violinist and professor of the Moscow Conservatory Ivan Voytsekhovich Grzhimali, created in 1911 by the well-known Russian painter Mikhail Feodorovich Shemyakin.

The bust of Ferdinand Laub and the portrait of Ivan Grzhimali give an account of one of the numerous dynasties of the Moscow Conservatory. We must bear in mind that Ivan Grzhimali was married to the daughter of Ferdinand Laub, while Mikhail Shemyakin was the husband of the daughter of Ivan Grzhimali. It was Shemyakin’s son in particular – likewise, an artist and an art historian, Mikhail Mikhaylovich Shemyakin – who requested persistently that the portrait of his grandfather be donated to the Museum and restored.

Later on one of the descendants of this family dynasty, whose name was also Mikhail Feodorovich Shemyakin donated to the Museum a beautiful wall-mounted clock, which once belonged to Ferdinand Laub and for many years adorned the apartment of Grzhimali, which was situated in the Conservatory’s residential building (in the mid-1950s it was rebuilt into the Second Tutorial Building). Presently it forms part of the exposition of the Oval Hall and stands close to the portrait of its former owners.

The Archive of the Moscow Conservatory shared with the Nikolay Grigor’yevich Rubinstein Museum a number of genuine old documents of its remarkable graduates. Most attractive are the copies of the diplomas of Aleksandr Dmitrievich Kastalsky, Nikolay Karlovich Medtner, Nikolay Andreyevich Roslavets and Aleksandr Nikolayevich Skryabin and other outstanding musicians, bestowed to them upon their graduation from the Conservatory.

The Museum’s glass cases also present other relevant documents: for example, requests for admission into the Moscow Conservatory written by Sergey Taneyev’s mother, Nikolay Medtner’s father and Nikolay Roslavets.

Under a large photo portrait of composer, conductor, public figure in the sphere of music, professor and director of the Moscow Conservatory Mikhail Mikhaylovich Ippolitov-Ivanov there is a Certificate of his fulfillment of compulsory military service and his passport.

The glass cases of the Oval Hall also display the old editions of the first music textbooks which had appeared at the Moscow Conservatory, for example, the “Technique of Piano Performance” by Aleksandr Ivanovich Dubuk (a student of John Field) and Tchaikovsky’s “Guide to the Practical Study of Harmony”. Next to them the posthumous edition of Nikolay Rubinstein’s piano pieces is displayed.

Along with the images of composers in paintings, sculptures and photographs, as well as the documents, musical editions and books, the Oval Hall contains conductors’ stands which experts are inclined to believe to have belonged to Nikolay Rubinstein and Pyotr Tchaikovsky, since these objects pertain to the corresponding epoch and have been preserved at the Moscow Conservatory. One of these objects is a celesta of the French “Mustel,” which was built at the time, in particular, when Tchaikovsky brought a celesta from France for the production of his ballet “The Nutcracker.”

Celesta. Supposedly belonged to P. I. Tchaikovsky.

However, possibly the most important exhibit in the Museum’s Oval Hall, which makes it possible to organize musical performances and conferences, is Konstantin Nikolayevich Igumnov’s personal “Steinway” grand piano, built in 1903.

Piano «Steinway and Sons». 1903. Belonged to K. N. Igumnov. (With sign).

The Museum’s interior is decorated by various specimens of antique furniture, which, fortunately, were preserved in this educational institution, notwithstanding all the historical tumults and calamities of the 20th century.

This, in front of the portrait of Mikhail Glinka there is a set of furniture of the Tsar’s (presently, the Governmental) Box of the Grand Hall of the Conservatory. According to experts, this presents a specimen of the gala furniture of the second half of the 20th century with carved décor made out of gilt wood.

Next to the portraits of Vasily Safonov and Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov there is an exhibit of a set of furniture in the “style moderne” style, made of Karelian birch (in the 19th century), which is characteristic for the interior of tutorial buildings of the Conservatory.

In the center of the Museum’s Oval Hall there is a large number of chairs and armchairs produced by the firm of the “Tonette” brothers with refined constructions of bent wood (made in the 20th century). They were the ones, in particular, that furnished the main floors of the Small and Grand Halls of the Conservatory at the time of their opening – at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

In the middle of the 20th century the chairs and armchairs of the “Tonette” firm were replaced in the concert halls with soft furniture, having gradually become worn out with time and having started to make creaking sounds, which hampered the audience’s perception of the music performed in the hall. It was a difficult, yet a noble task to gather them from the reception desks, the medical office and the Conservatory’s storage rooms, and then to restore them, since they greatly revive the historical spirit in the Museum and aptly fulfill their function for the present audiences for the concerts which, as was mentioned before, regularly take place in the Oval Hall.

In the small foyer in front of the Oval Hall there is a sculpture of Aleksey Nikolayevich Verstovsky (1799–1862), one of the prominent Moscow musicians of his time, an Honored Member of the Russian Musical Society (made in 1998 by Yu. A. Segal, born in 1971). Verstovsky was a member of the “Advisory Committee” affiliated with the Moscow Branch of the RMS.

Next to the bust there is a large portrait photograph of Sergey Vasil’yevich Rachmaninoff.

Near the entrance into the Storage Department of the Museum the visitors of the Grand Hall of the Conservatory can see an enormous sculptural portrait of Vladimir Vasil’yevich Stasov (1824–1906), an outstanding music and art critic (made by M.E. Shendygina in 1951).

The Exhibition Hall adjoining the Storage Department of the Museum holds the exhibition “Gifts to the Nikolay Grigor’yevich Rubinstein Museum,” which was opened on March 27, 1997. It gives an overview of the evolution of the Moscow Conservatory from the middle of the previous century to the present time.

Photo by D. V. Rylov, 2011

In correspondence with its name, the exposition in the Exhibition Hall includes genuine historical objects, donated to the Nikolay Grigor’yevich Rubinstein Museum from the moment of its revival at the Moscow Conservatory: visual art works and photographs, concert programs and posters, manuscripts and printed editions with autographs, documents and memorial objects, LP records and CD’s.

Photo by D. V. Rylov, 2011

The vivid portraits of pianists Elena Aleksandrovna Bekman-Shcherbina (1881–1951; painted by artist I.A. Kuznetsov in the 1950s) and Tatiana Petrovna Nikolayeva (1924–1993; painted by artist N.S. Chukov; 1970–1980s), violist Vadim Vasil’yevich Borisovsky (1900–1972; painted by artist A.V. Motornaya in the 1940s) and violinist Evgeny Mikhaylovich Guzikov (1887–1972; painted by an unknown painter in the 1940–1950s), composers Reinhold Moritzevich Glière (1874–1956; painted by A.A. Demushkin in the 1950s) and Nikolay Petrovich Rakov (1908–1990; painted by an unknown painter in the 1940s) were painted by the Museum by the relatives and friends of these remarkable musicians.

Photo by D. V. Rylov, 2011

The portraits of composers Nikolay Yakovlevich Myaskovsky (1881–1950; painted by P.T. Stronsky; 1990s), Dmitry Dmitrievich Shostakovich (1906–1975; painted by P.A. Borisov; 1995), conductor Konstantin Sergeyevich Saradzhev (1877–1954; painted by Mikhail Mikhaylovich Shemyakin; born 1939) were donated to the Museum by the artists themselves.

Artist and art historian Mikhail Mikhaylovich Shemyakin, the descendant of some of the most prominent professors of the Moscow Conservatory, Ferdinand Laub and Ivan Grzhimali, donated to the Museum a set of drawings made by him in the1930s of young Russian musicians – winners of international competitions: portraits of violinists Elizaveta Grigor’yevna Gilels (1919–2008) and Mikhail Gavrilovich Erdenko (1885-1940), pianists Emil Grigor’yevich Gilels (1916–1985), Roza Vladimirovna Tamarkina (1920–1950) and Yakov Vladimirovich Flier (1912–1977).

The graphical works displayed in the Exposition Hall include portrait sketches of musicologists – Mikhail Vladimirovich Ivanov-Boretsky (1874–1836; artist: A. Kostyukevich; 1945) and Z.F. Savelova (1862–1943; unknown artist; 1930s-1940s).

Along with paintings and graphics, the exposition contains sculptural depictions of pianists Aleksandr Borisovich Goldenweiser (1875–1961; sculptor: V.P. Papandopulo; 1950s) and Elena Aleksandrovna Bekman-Shcherbina (1881–1951; sculptor I. Dmitriev; 1950s) and also composer Anatoly Nikolayevich Aleksandrov (1888–1982; sculptor: G.I. Ozolina; 1960s).

Of al these, especially remarkable is the bust of Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799–1837), donated to the museum by T.V. Golubeva, the widow of composer Evgeny Kirillovich Golubev (1910–1988), who loved the works of the great Russian poet and turning to his poems in his vocal compositions (the manuscript of one of them “Ya pomnyu chudnoye mgnoven’ye” (“I Remember a Wondrous Moment”) is displayed next to this small sculpture).

Nevertheless, the predominating objects in the Exposition Hall are photographs of outstanding musicians, taken during their concerts and rehearsals, in tutorial classes and in their home studies. Together with the paintings, as well as the numerous posters and LP records, they make it possible to receive an overall impression of the Piano, Orchestral, Vocal, Theory and Composition Departments, the Department of Orchestral and Choral Conducting and the interdepartmental subdepartments – those of Chamber Ensemble, String Quartet and Accompaniment.

Photo by D. V. Rylov, 2011

A special unique atmosphere in this display is created by the musical instruments and memorial objects placed on the antiquated furniture of the early 20th century. The visitors of the Exhibition Hall could see a Ukrainian bandura, a number of Russian folk instruments (two vertical flutes, a straw pip and a Kursk horn) and a phonograph, all of which were passed along to the Museum from the other departments of the Conservatory.

A genuine interest is aroused by the exhibits from the extensive and multifarious archive of the family of Elena Aleksandrovna Bekman-Shcherbina and Sergey Sergeyevich Skrebkov (1905–1966): an alabaster vase given to Bekman-Shcherbina for her wedding, and engravers’ copper plates, on which music of children’s songs was printed. Bekman-Shcherbina and her husband Leonid Karlovich Bekman composed them for their little daughters.

Of equal interest are the objects from the archive of Nikolay Petrovich Rakov (1908–1990): his conductor’s baton, metronome and the “Philips” magnetic tape recorder, which were donated to the Museum, along with the magnetic recording tapes on which many of his compositions have been recorded.

The fact that the Exhibition Hall is directly adjacent to the Museum’s Storage Department is made obvious by the personal card catalogue of pianist, organist and musicologist Leonid Isaakovich Roizman (1915–1989) donated by his wife L.V. Mokhel as part of an immense and very valuable archive. Nearby stands a bookshelf with the complete musical legacy of Anatoly Nikolayevich Aleksandrov (1888–1982), both the published scores and the manuscripts – previously it was located in the composer’s apartment.

The glass cases of the Exhibition Hall display various manuscripts and editions, some of them bearing autograph signatures, as well as concert programs and compact discs – all of these are extremely interesting documents of the epoch, capable of recounting many things about the life of the Moscow Conservatory in the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century and the destinies of the musicians connected with it.

Those original artifacts, which were possible to gather together bit by bit during the course of many years that passed since the creation of the Nikolay Grigor’yevich Rubinstein Museum, are perceived as valuable fragments of time, onto which the memory of remarkable musicians of the Moscow Conservatory has been imprinted.

The Museum’s permanent exhibitions demonstrate consistently and multifariously the evolution of this educational institution during the course of almost a century and a half. They not only make it possible to hold excursions for visitors and tourist groups, but, what is very essential, carry out the functions of substantial and intriguing visual displays, which greatly complement the lectures in history of musical education in Russia that are regularly read for musicologists and students of the Advanced Training Program.

A guarantee for the enlargement and renewal of the expositions in the Museum is the continued replenishment of its collection, made possible by the generosity of the donors – the Professors of the Moscow Conservatory and their descendants.