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Vladimir Horowitz - History

Vladimir Horowitz - History

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Vladimir Horowitz

1904- 1989


Piano virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz was born in Russia, but made his name at his sensational 1928 Carnegie Hall debut performing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1. His command of the technically difficult work of Liszt and Rachmaninoff was unparalleled, as were his interpretations of the music of Scriabin and Clementi.

His many recordings won him almost two dozen Grammy awards and worldwide acclaim. He was married in 1933 to Wanda Toscanini, daughter of the conductor Arturo Toscanini.

A Meeting of Titans – The Day Vladimir Horowitz and Sergei Rachmaninoff Arrived Together at Steinway Hall

This is the story of three musical legends and a moment in New York in January 1928, when they were forever joined in history. The participants included the two greatest pianists of an era: the towering Sergei Rachmaninoff, whose romantic compositions and transcendent keyboard artistry captivated a generation and Vladimir Horowitz, the fire-breathing virtuoso’s virtuoso, who had just arrived on these shores. Who was the third? Not a person, but a special place that remains a mecca for great artists and music lovers to this day: Steinway Hall.

It had opened in 1925 on West 57th Street, a large building with an exquisite rotunda, marble arches, elegant columns, and a dome ceiling. It is today an official landmark of New York City, and tourists still drop by to see the large paintings and sculptures from the Steinway collection that adorn the hall, the beautiful Steinway pianos on display, and the Waterford crystal chandelier that overlooks it all from the top of the dome. This, however, was actually the second incarnation of the celebrated attraction.

The original Steinway Hall on East 14th Street, which had operated in 1886 (after a delay caused by the Civil War), had been a superb performance space that seated 2,500 people. Noted for its classic, lavish interior and superior acoustics, it had played host to the New York Philharmonic and to many celebrity performers including Charles Dickens, who delivered readings of his works there in 1867 (to a sold-out house). It was the place to experience Steinway Pianos in New York. In 1877, audience even witnessed a scientific experiment on which music was transmitted by wire for the first time from New York to Philadelphia.

However, the original Steinway Hall closed in 1890 to make way for Carnegie Hall. Through today’s more modern Steinway Hall also offers space for small musical events, it operates mainly as a Steinway showroom and a location for executive offices it also features a basement containing a wide selection of concert instruments from which a performing artist may select a Steinway for his or her next concert. It was the basement that played a dramatic role in this tale. When the two titans of the piano met and wanted to rehearse together, they needed to find two concert pianos in a private setting. It was only natural that they would head straight to Steinway’s treasure trove of instruments on the lower level of the Hall.

Vladimir Horowitz and Sergei Rachmaninoff had each suffered great losses in the Russian Revolution of 1917. “We lost absolutely everything,” Horowitz told author, radio personality, and Steinway Artist David Dubal, as reported in Dubal’s book, Reflections from the Keyboard. “In 24 hours, all we had we lost.” In 1925, he traveled to Germany and then to Paris, performing to tremendous acclaim. In Hamburg, he played the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto as a last-minute replacement for an indisposed pianist conductor Eugene Pabst was so astonished by the power and speed of his playing that he left the podium to watch Horowitz’s hands. He had been booked to perform two recitals in small halls in Paris, but the response was so spectacular that he had to play five recitals, the last one at the Paris Opera. American concert manager Arthur Judson heard of him in Paris in 1928 and signed him up for a tour in the United States.

Horowitz made his American debut at Carnegie Hall in the Tchaikovsky First Piano, with Thomas Beecham conducting. Apparently Beechman, who was also making his debut that night, was completely self-absorbed, and unresponsive to the needs of his soloist. “I chose the Tchaikovsky because I knew that I could make such a wild sound,” Horowitz told Dubal, “and I could play it with such speed and noise. I very much wanted to have a big success in the United States.”

But Beechman’s tempos were too relaxed, and so in the last movement of the work, Horowitz, anxious to show what he had, made his move – like a thoroughbred taking off in the final stretch of a race. “I wanted to eat the public alive,” said Horowitz, “to drive them completely crazy. Subconsciously, it was in order not to go back to Europe…So in my mind I said, ‘Well, my Englishman, my lord, I am from Kiev, and I’ll give you something.’ And so I started to make the octaves faster and very wild.” According to The New York Times, “The piano smoked at the keys.”

Beechman tried to keep up, but he was taken by surprise and couldn’t quite make it work. Horowitz later said, without a hint of remorse, “We ended almost together.” The public found the pianist electrifying, and his American career was assured.

Sergei Rachmaninoff was in the audience that night, but he wasn’t pleased with what he had heard. Horowitz reported to Dubal that Rachmaninoff told him, “Your octaves are the fastest and loudest, but I must tell you, it was not musical. It was not necessary.” So Horowitz recounted the story of how the performance had unfolded, and Rachmaninoff began to laugh. “But Rachmaninoff could always find something to complain about in any performance,” said Horowitz.

Rachmaninoff was known for stern, dour persona – with a military-style haircut and perpetually unsmiling visage – though musically he could soar, carrying listeners away with music of intense romanticism and sweeping gracefulness. At the time of Horowitz’s arrival, Rachmaninoff was already well-established in the United States he had arrived on Armistice Day in 1918, and had quickly set about making a series of recordings on Victor that were immediate successes.

Critic Harold Schonberg wrote that, “Only the very greatest vocal artists – a Lotte Lehmann or an Elisabeth Schumann – could shape a phrase with equal finesse and authority.” Rachmaninoff’s pianism was marked by a strong personality, incredible technical flair, and self-assuredness.

Yet, he had not set out to be a performing pianist. As a composer, he had shown tremendous talent early on: His first opera, Aleko, written while still in the conservatory, was considered groundbreaking. But with the revolution came the need to earn a living, and his own music, as well as that of others, soon became a showcase for his pianistic abilities. One of those compositions, his famous Prelude in C-sharp Minor, became an albatross around his neck. He had been invited to England in 1898, where the piece was published under such titles as The Burning of Moscow, The Day of Judgement, and The Moscow Waltz, chiefly on the strength of that one hit.

Everywhere he went, people demanded to hear it. Critic James Huneker reported that it was still an audience favorite in 1918. “The Rachmaninoff ‘fans’,” he wrote, “and there were thousands of them in the audience, clamored for the favorite piece…But the chief thing is the fact that Rachmaninoff did not play it. All flapperdom sorrowed last night, for there are amiable fanatics who follow this pianist from place to place hoping to hear him in this particular Prelude, like an Englishman who attends every performance of the lady lion tamer hoping to see her swallowed by one of her pets.”

Horowitz was attracted to a very different work by Rachmaninoff: the formidable Third Piano Concerto – one of the most difficult musical works ever written. And Rachmaninoff had received word from virtuoso violinist Fritz Kreisler that “some young Russian plays [his] Third Concerto and the Tchaikovsky Concerto like nothing I ever heard, and you have to meet him.” So, the very next day after arriving in New York, Horowitz received an invitation from Rachmaninoff to visit him in his apartment.

The two wasted no time in becoming musical acquaintances. Rachmaninoff played Medtner’s Fairy Tale in E Minor for Horowitz. Then the two decided that if Horowitz was going to perform Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, perhaps the composer should give him some pointers. Off they went to Steinway Hall. Rachmaninoff played the orchestra part on one Steinway piano, while Horowitz played the solo part on another.

Rachmaninoff was genuinely impressed. “He swallowed it whole,” stated the composer. “He had the courage, the intensity, and daring that make for greatness.”

The Rachmaninoff concerto became Horowitz’s trademark. His New York performance of the work, with the Philharmonic Orchestra, was broadcast over the radio. In fact, Horowitz made three recordings of it – “The first one I don’t count,” he confessed to Dubal. “It was on 78s, with Albert Coates conducting. They gave me only one hour and [a] half, and I couldn’t do what I wanted in such a short time.” Nevertheless, that recording remains a favorite many pianophiles.

The two musical giants remained friends for the rest of their lives. Horowitz case to be known as the pianist who “owned” the difficult Third Piano Concerto. And it all began in the basement of New York’s Steinway Hall.

Stuart Isacoff is author of Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization (Knopf/Vintage) and editor of the magazine Piano Today. He is on the faculty of the Purchase College Conservatory of Music.

Carnegie Hall

For nearly six decades, Vladimir Horowitz&rsquos career was intertwined with the history of Carnegie Hall. His 1928 debut with the New York Philharmonic was just the prelude to an astonishing recital career that included his triumphant 1965 comeback from a 12-year performing hiatus for which&mdashin the pre-electronic ticketing age&mdashall seats sold out in two hours. Although his final recital at Carnegie Hall happened in 1985, his final appearance was during a gala concert to celebrate the Hall&rsquos reopening after seven months of renovation in 1986.

&ldquoI played louder, faster, and more notes than Tchaikovsky wrote.&rdquo

From the Archives

Ad for Horowitz&rsquos Carnegie Hall debut, 1928 (Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives) Horowitz greets fans at the stage door before his 1965 comeback (Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives) Horowitz's letter in support of saving the Hall, 1960 (Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives) Horowitz&rsquos final Carnegie Hall recital, 1985 (Photo by Steve Sherman)

Perry J Greenbaum

I must tell you I take terrible risks. Because my playing is very clear, when I make a mistake you hear it. If you want me to play only the notes without any specific dynamics, I will never make one mistake. Never be afraid to dare.
Vladimir Horowitz

Vladimir Horowitz [1903-1989]: “It’s better to make your own mistakes than to copy someone else.
Source: US Library of Congress: Prints & Photographs Div.

There are a couple of interesting facts about Horowitz: 1) he was known to wear bow-ties, which he began collecting in the 1950s. At the time of his death, his collection was said to number nearly six hundred 2) he would take a two-mile walk after a light breakfast and 3) he preferred playing on Sunday afternoons, thinking the audience would be more restful and attentive.

A Prodigy From Russia

Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz was born to Samuil Horowitz and Sophia Bodik in Kiev, Ukraine, on October 1, 1903. He was the youngest of four children. Horowitz received piano instruction at an early age, initially from his mother at age three, who was herself a competent pianist. But as is common with all musical prodigies, he needed further professional instruction, which he started to receive in 1912 at the Kiev Conservatory.

Horowitz had plans to leave Russia, and strike his fortune elsewhere. In December 1925, the 22-year-old Horowitz crossed the border into the West, ostensibly to study with Artur Schnabel. But he had already decided to leave the Soviet Union, seeking to strike his fortunes elsewhere. “Stuffing approximately five thousand dollars worth of Russian rubles into a shoe, he crossed the border as a Soviet guard wished him good fortune in the West,” said Encyclopedia.com. (It would be another 60 years before he would return.)

On December 18, 1925, Horowitz made his first appearance outside his home country, in Berlin

Horowitz, (circa 1910s�s: undated photo): “When I am on the stage, I’m a king. No one can
interfere with me because I have something to do, and it has to be the best which is within me.”
Source: US Library of Congress: Prints & Photographs Div.

For example, as indicative of his temperament and how he handled the strain and rigors of constantly performing, Horowitz said to Newsweek’s Hubert Saal, after his first retirement from the concert stage: “I couldn’t take the traveling, five days a week, all those trains, all those towns, no sleep, bad food."

He used the time to recuperate and spend with family. Yet, he always returned to the public with a fresh vigor. During the Second World War, for example, when Horowitz became an American citizen, he gave many concerts for the American war effort. Out of these patriotic endeavors became one of his most popular compositions, a flamboyant arrangement of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

In 1953 he celebrated the 25th anniversary of his American debut by once again performing Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto, Encyclopedia.com said:

Horowitz ended his twelve-year absence from the concert stage in May, 1965, with a recital at Carnegie Hall, where he played Schumann’s Fantasy and various works by Scriabin and Chopin. The performance earned great acclaim, and the subsequent recording of that concert was successful.

His reasons for coming to Russia were two-fold. Horowitz pointed out: to see Russia once more before his death, and to act as an ambassador to peace. [Horowitz would die a few years later.]

On the day of the recital, people stood outside the concert hall in the rain even though they couldn't hear anything. Hundreds of students broke through security to watch the concert from the balcony, and guards couldn't manage to remove them.

To say the event was emotional is an understatement of the greatest order. I remember seeing the performance on television, and yes, there were tears in my eyes why not? As Horowitz said, "You must give your heart," a sign of humanity. Here are some additional notes about this concert:

Horowitz's place in history is sealed. “I am a nineteenth-century romantic,” he said to Newsweek’s Saal in 1978. “I am the last.” Vladimir Horowitz died of a heart attack on November 5, 1989, in New York City. He was 86. He is buried in the Toscanini family tomb in Cimitero Monumentale, Milan, Italy.


Despite his romantic style, Horowitz was a specialist in the sonatas of Scarlatti, whose music is unambiguously classical.
Horowitz is often cited as the author of the following statement: "There are three types of pianists Jewish pianists, homosexual pianists, and bad pianists." Someone once told me that Horowitz used to hang out in a gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York City, called Julius.

Thank you for your comments.

I have seen his statement regarding the various types of pianists. In addition, there were many references to Horowitz being gay, including one by Arthur Rubinstein: "Everyone knew and accepted him as a homosexual." Even so, since Horowitz himself never confirmed it, I chose to keep it out. It's only hearsay.

All comments will be moderated and bear in mind that anonymous, hostile, vulgar and off-topic comments will not be published. Thoughtful, reasonable and clear comments, bearing your real name, will be. All comments must be in English.

Pianist Vladimir Horowitz is buried in Milan

MILAN, Italy -- Renowned pianist Vladimir Horowitz was buried in the Toscanini family tomb at Milan's Monumental Cemetery at a private ceremony attended by some 200 family members, close friends and admirers.

The brief funeral, which featured solemn classical music, took place Friday in a small church in the cemetery, according to the wishes of his widow, the former Wanda Toscanini Horowitz, daughter of the late conductor Arturo Toscanini.

The funeral ceremony was performed according to Roman Catholic rites, although Horowitz was the son of Jewish parents.

The Kiev-born pianist, who spent most of his life in the United States when not touring the world's concert stages, died last Sunday of a heart attack in his New York City apartment at age 85.

His coffin, accompanied by his widow and a few close acquaintances, was flown into Milan Malpensa airport aboard a scheduled Alitalia flight from New York early Friday.

It was transferred to the foyer of Milan's famed La Scala opera house, which served as a funeral parlor.

After the funeral service, Horowitz was laid to rest in the Toscanini family tomb, a small chapel built by conductor Arturo Toscanini in 1911 as the burial place of his son, Giorgio, who died at the age of 10. It also is the burial site of Sonia, the only daughter of Wanda and Vladimir Horowitz, who died in 1975.

Other members of the Toscanini family are buried in the family tomb, including the conductor's son, Walter, who died in 1971 and his son's wife, Lucia, a prima ballerina of the La Scala theater who died in 1954.

Among Horowitz's closest friends and aides who attended the funeral were his secretary, Giuliana Lopens, his agent, Peter Gelb, the superintendent of the La Scala theater,Carlo Maria Badini, and the octogenerian director of the La Scala orchestra, Gianandrea Gavazzeni.

Badini told reporters at the end of the service that Horowitz had promised to come to Milan next Dec. 7 to attend the gala opening of the La Scala season with the opera 'Sicilian Vespers.'

'On that occasion, we hoped to get a promise from him to perform other concerts at La Scala, like the unforgettable concert he gave during his last appearance there in November 1985,' Badini said.

Rach 3: pianists who shine Concerto: Outstanding performances of the difficult work have been recorded. A Top 10 list begins with Vladimir Horowitz in 1930.

Two evil forces drive the movie "Shine." The first is Peter Helfgott, whose brutal, domineering discipline is responsible for the descent of his sensitive, piano-prodigy son, David, into schizophrenia. The second is the man-eating Rachmaninoff Third Concerto, a piece so dangerously difficult that attempting to learn it before one is mature is to invite a nervous breakdown.

These demons are fearfully effective in the movie. But the case in real life appears to be rather different. Most of the members of the Helfgott family deny that Peter was the brute that "Shine" makes him out to be. And the Rach 3 (as the concerto is called in the movie and by almost all musicians) -- far from being the enemy of young pianists -- is actually more likely to be an ally. The pianists who learned the piece as teen-agers, and whose performances of it helped lead them to fame, include Vladimir Horowitz, Emil Gilels, Van Cliburn, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Horacio Gutierrez, Garrick Ohlsson and Andrei Gavrilov -- to name just a few.

The fact is that the sooner a pianist learns the Rach 3, the better off he or she is. This is a concerto that contains more notes than any other. Its fearsome difficulties are best overcome, as the pianist Alexander Toradze, who learned the piece after he turned 40, once remarked, "when you are too young and dumb to realize how hard it is."

It was written in 1909 and dedicated to Josef Hofmann, whom Rachmaninoff and most of his contemporaries regarded as the greatest of pianists. But Hofmann, who was 33 at the time, never played it. Late in his life, Hofmann said he never performed the Rach 3 because he considered it "a piece of fluff." But the truth is that Hofmann -- who never hesitated to play such real pieces of fluff as the now forgotten concertos of Anton Rubinstein -- was probably afraid of it.

It scared off other pianists until the late 1920s, when Vladimir Horowitz began to enjoy great success with it. Today it is the combat in which many young pianists earn their coats of arms as virtuosos.

It's easy to understand its popularity with pianists and audiences. The concerto's subtle construction evolves from a simple opening melody into a work of impressive cohesiveness, held together by careful thematic cross-references its spacious, richly varied design concludes with the tumultuous force of a dam burst.

"Shine" has made the Rach 3 more popular than ever. Unfortunately, most of the film's fans have been buying Helfgott's own recording -- at the unprecedented pace of 12,000 copies per week. Since Helfgott's performance is technically labored, rhythmically unsteady and interpretively shallow, the following guide to 10 genuinely great performances, listed in the order they were recorded, is offered as a public service.

London Symphony conducted by Albert Coates. EMI CHS 7 63538.

Horowitz went on to record the Rach 3 two more times (in versions less disfigured by the cuts made necessary by the exigencies of 78 rpm records). But it is this interpretation --

without the grotesque affectations the pianist inflicted upon the concerto in his later years -- that inspired Rachmaninoff to make an unscheduled appearance onstage, embracing Horowitz after one of his performances. At the time of this recording, the Rach 3 was not the familiar piece it is now, and this interpretation was considered a revelation. Arthur Rubinstein never forgot the first time he heard it. "It was certainly the finest record I ever heard," the great pianist recalled in his memoirs, adding that the friend who put the discs on the turntable remarked upon "the astounded expression on my face."

Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy. RCA Gold Seal 09026-61265.

Rachmaninoff was 66 when he made this recording, but it nevertheless demonstrates the prowess of one of history's greatest pianists. The composer takes the same cuts Horowitz did, thus seriously compromising the work's structural integrity. But what a performance -- unbelievably fleet, utterly unsentimental. The nonchalance with which Rachmaninoff throws off dazzling passages, such as the first movement cadenza, continues to give other pianists sleepless nights.

Paris Conservatory Orchestra conducted by Andre Cluytens. Testament SBT 1029.

Listeners who know Gilels from the recordings he made late in his life can have no idea of his power, of the sheer mass of sound he released from the instrument. This performance shows us the 40-year-old Russian in all his leonine glory. Despite recorded sound that does less than complete justice to the pianist's seductive thunder, it remains the most muscular interpretation on records.

Symphony of the Air conducted by Kiril Kondrashin. RCAS 6209-2RC.

If it was Horowitz who first conquered the Rach 3, it was Cliburn who liberated it. This untouched transcript of Cliburn's Carnegie Hall performance, recorded shortly after the pianist's return from his triumph at the first Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, demonstrated that the terse, driven way of Horowitz and his imitators was not the only way to interpret the Rach 3. Cliburn was the first pianist (in the West, at least) to perform the composer's alternative first movement cadenza -- the first 55 bars of which are a Himalayan range of chordal writing that adds substantially to the concerto's mass (and magnificence). Cliburn made the concerto more spacious and lyrical than any pianist before him. And he made the bravura writing -- even at high

velocities and dynamic levels -- perpetually songful.

London Symphony conducted by Antal Dorati, Mercury 432 759.

In the aftermath of Cliburn, Janis' brilliant account was overshadowed. This was unfortunate. Janis, Horowitz's greatest protege, gave a performance that was brilliant in the steely manner of his master, without the latter's annoying mannerisms and with a seductive lyricism that was all Janis' own.

Moscow Philharmonic conducted by Kiril Kondrashin. Melodiya SUCD 10-00656.

Mogilevsky is likely to be the pianist least familiar to readers. But musicians such as pianist Garrick Ohlsson and conductor David Zinman swear that this performance by the then-18-year-old Russian is the greatest ever recorded. (It's also the personal favorite of this writer.) Mogilevsky's has all the virtues of Cliburn's great account, and it's even more exciting.

Chicago Symphony conducted by Georges Pretre. RCA Gold Seal 09026-61 3961.

Weissenberg was a master of distortion: He plays loud when the score tells him to play soft he slows down when directed to speed up and he explodes at a gallop when instructed to maintain the tempo. But Weissenberg's playing is colossal -- even if its colossalness is often that of an iceberg -- and the final moments are perhaps the most adrenalin-charged on record.

Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy. RCA 6524-2-RG.

Ashkenazy has made five splendid recordings of the Rach 3 -- four as a pianist and one as a conductor (with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet) -- and this is the best of them. It is a leisurely account -- even slower than those of Cliburn and Mogilevsky -- but exciting, nonetheless. There is a basic sanity and sense of proportion in almost everything this pianist does and these qualities were never achieved with as much majesty as they are here.

Radio Orchestra of Berlin conducted by Riccardo Chailly. Philips 446 673.

If Ashkenazy's is the sanest version, Argerich's is the craziest. Adjectives such as incendiary and volcanic do not suffice to describe her playing in this live recording -- nothing less than orgasmic will do. Although she kept this piece in her repertory for only a few years, Argerich is the only woman who ever achieved success with the Rach 3. Her manic intensity is such that it makes the Horowitz version seem serene by comparison, and her pulverizing power makes most of her male rivals seem like little boys.

Oslo Philharmonic conducted by Paavo Berglund. Virgin VC 5 45173.

This young Norwegian -- only 25 at the time of this live recording -- plays the way one imagines the young Rachmaninoff did. This is a fleet, unsentimental and honest performance, in which the pianist's ferocious power suggests that of a huge (and very hungry) jungle cat.

Music History 101 :: Vladimir Horowitz

Did you know Vladimir Horowitz is considered one of the greatest pianist of the 20th century? I was ashamed that I did not when my boss, Linda Wehrli suggested him as our next Music History 101 Blog feature. Here is what I discovered.

Born in Kiev, Ukraine on October 1, 1903, Horowitz’ mother (also a pianist) provided lessons for him at an early age. Displaying early talent for the instrument, Horowitz enrolled in the Kiev Conservatory in 1912, and upon graduation in 1919, performed Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 by Sergei Rachmaninov. At the conservatory, Horowitz was taught by Vladimir Puchalsky, Sergei Tarnowsky, and Felix Blumenfeld. His father respected his talent so greatly that he changed his son’s age by listing his birth year as 1904 to avoid military service! Now that’s good parenting!

Horowitz soon began performing throughout Russia, where he was often paid with bread, butter and chocolate rather than money, due to the country’s economic hardships. Famous for his expert technique and ability to portray excitement through his music, he performed internationally in cities such as Berlin, London, and New York City, and eventually became a U.S. citizen in 1944. Although tremendously successful, he began doubting his abilities (as is expected with a true artist). His insecurities prevented him from performing from 1936 – 1985! However, during this time, Horowitz continued to record music. He completed his final recording for Sony Classical just 4 days before passing away on November 5, 1989.

For all the vibrant energy of his playing, Horowitz seldom raised his hands higher than the piano’s fallboard. His body was immobile, and his face rarely reflected anything other than intent concentration.

Known for his performances of the Romantic piano repertoire, Horowitz’ first recording of the Franz Liszt‘s sonata in 1932 is still considered by some aficionados as the best performance of that piece, after almost 75 years and over 100 performances by other pianists! Now that’s a compliment. To this day, Vladimir Horowitz is considered one of the greatest pianist of all time.

Vladimir Horowitz: Ballade 1 by Chopin

Music History 101 reviews selected artists from periods of history that continue to influence today’s culture and taste. If you enjoyed this story, please feel free to share on your favorite social media to get the word out about this great artist! Comments welcome. If there is an artist you would like us to feature, please comment below. Thank you for your support.

Jessica Lee Sanders is the office manager at Pastimes for a Lifetime Art and Piano School, Valley Glen, CA (near Sherman Oaks).

For over 25 years, Pastimes for a Lifetime has been providing innovative and inspiring piano lessons to children, teens, adults and seniors. Programs are designed to bring out the inner musician in each and every student.

If you or your child is ready to learn to play the piano, call 818.766.0614 or email the school to set up a free consultation with pianist and instructor, Linda Wehrli.


I played the video of his Chopin Ballade at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhnRIuGZ_dc . Absolutely striking, professional and impressive! His control of tempo and loudness is amazing. So is his precision and speed. I can see why his audience was so enthusiastic over him.

Thank you for your comments. Indeed.

There are some inaccuracies in this article with regards to Vladimir Horowitz not performing between 1936 and 1985. In fact, Vladimir Horowitz gave many recitals during this period, and even appeared on the Ted Mack Amateur hour (television) during the 1960s. This was an unusual appearance, since Ted typically only introduced aspiring artists, with an occasional artist that the public already new. The facial expression of Ted when Vladimir came on to the stage was nothing less than shock, and I recall him stating “Ladies and Gentlemen, I our next guest is hardly an amateur, and will now play us a movement from Chopin’s Piano Concerto Number II”.

This was the first time I heard Vladimir Horowitz, but heard him many times after that. I saw him perform live in Los Angeles in the 1970s, and his performance then was equally inspiring. And I heard him again in the early 80s in Seattle. And though he didn’t get out as much as he did when he was younger, he still did perform publicly.

I don’t think the reason he quit playing was because of insecurities, but because he was worn out from travel, and no longer enjoyed such long travels. The reason he played less frequently is a common misperception for people who didn’t know him. And for those who had seen him at his home, they will tell you that his site reading and improvisation skills were just as equally impressive as his performances.

Thank you for the thoughtful and insightful reply. It must have been magical to hear Vladimir Horowitz in concert. What a treat it must have been for you. Thank you for sharing with my readers.

I first heard Vladimir Horowitz on the radio in 1953. It was his last recital before a long Sabbatical that lasted until 1965 at which time he returned to the concert stage at Carnegie Hall. I was one of many who stood on line around the block on 57th street in Manhattan waiting to purchase tickets to the ultimate pianist. When I first heard him I was a student of the piano and was astounded with his unimaginable technique, with his musicality and sonority. He became my hero and a push back to the contemporary raucous music of the time I grew up in. Once in my car I pulled up to another car with kids my age loudly playing rock music, I turned the volume of my record player up high with Horowitz playing the Carmen Fantasy that out volumed their rock music and one of these kids turned to me and asked, “Who’s that?” “Horowitz! ” I said , and sped off like I had just described the Lone Ranger. Over the years I managed to go every concert Horowitz gave at Carnegie Hall. Just recently I saw the video of him playing Rachmaninov’s
3rd concerto conducted by Zubin Mehta. Thanks to modern technology and You Tube that recording says it all. Without any doubt, Horowitz is a metaphor for God in man. Horowitz is not only the perfection of human achievement as a pianist but he is more. It’s reflected in his ageless spirt. His playing mirrors what is in all of us, that we need to access, the limitless energy of love and creativity, and something not limited by physical age. It need not be defined but is there to be felt and seen in his great performance. He seems to be channeling God . He is the Big Bang. He is the universe expanding in a whirl wind of gorgeous sound creating musical explosions that go on and on after the last note is played . I am now 86 years old and have been a Horowitzophile all my life. I sculpted a portrait of him and his hands which are permanently exhibited in his archives at The Yale University Music Library

Wanda Toscanini Horowitz

Wanda Giorgina Toscanini Horowitz (b.December 7, 1907, Milan, Italy, – d.August 21, 1998) was the daughter of the conductor Arturo Toscanini and the wife of pianist Vladimir Horowitz.

As a child, Wanda studied piano and voice. She never pursued a professional music career, fearing she could never live up to her father's exacting standards. Despite this, she was one of the few people who was willing to stand up to her father. When Arturo Toscanini refused to speak with her sister, Wally, following her affair with a married man, it was Wanda who confronted her father and insisted he reestablish contact. [1]

At a Toscanini concert, she spotted the critic Virgil Thomson dozing during the performance. Knowing that Thomson frequently gave her father negative reviews, she approached him and announced, “I am Wanda Toscanini Horowitz, and I saw you sleep from the first note to the last. I hope you enjoyed the performance.” [2]

She was equally direct with her husband, whom she married in 1933. In the 1950s, when Horowitz was playing a Schubert sonata, she complained of the work's length, which persuaded the pianist to forgo a repeat. [3] She pointedly declined to accompany her husband for much of his 1983 tour, when he refused to accept that medications were adversely affecting his playing. [4]

Wanda and Horowitz separated in 1948. Byron Janis, one of Horowitz's students, has written that he and Wanda were involved in a brief affair during this period. [5] Horowitz and Wanda reconciled in 1951. In the aftermath of Horowitz’s 1953 nervous breakdown, she remained by his side. While she took pride in being married to the legendary virtuoso, she also confided that it was, at times “a cross to bear.” [6] However, others have implied that Wanda's stern personality, in part, led to Horowitz's breakdown. Arthur Rubinstein stated that "Wanda was a very hard woman—hard as stone, and this was undoubtedly a factor that led to Volodya's collapse." [7]

Wanda frequently referred to their only child, daughter Sonia (1934–1975), stating that Sonia's death was the greatest agony a mother could bear. [8] More than a decade after Sonia's death, she was observed bursting into tears at the mention of Sonia's name. [9]

Despite being raised Catholic, Wanda was opposed to the Catholic Church’s positions on many issues including birth control. [10] Like her husband, Wanda held firmly liberal political views. She once referred to Ronald Reagan as “a second-rate actor and a second-rate President.” [11]

Following Horowitz's death in 1989, Wanda bought a 200-year-old farm house that she named "Pinci's Acres" (Pinci was Wanda's nickname for Horowitz) in Ashley Falls, Massachusetts, and stocked it with American antiques and Horowitz memorabilia. She then divided her time between this home and the New York City townhouse. An animal lover who volunteered for the ASPCA, she adopted several stray cats. [12] [13]

As Horowitz's sole heir, Wanda was in charge of her late husband's musical legacy. In the 1990s, she approved the release of several previously unavailable recordings. She also rejected several recordings, most notably Balakirev's Islamey, which she said was "flashy" repertoire that did a disservice to her husband's memory. Copies of the recording eventually surfaced on the Internet, leading to requests for its release. In 2009, the recording was issued.

Wanda was buried alongside her husband in the Toscanini family tomb at Cimitero Monumentale in Milan. In May, 2004, vandals broke into the crypt and opened her coffin, possibly searching for jewelry. [14]

Wanda Toscanini Horowitz appeared in several filmed documentaries about her husband, most notably The Last Romantic, in which she responded to her husband's artistry and reflected on her life in the world of music as daughter and wife of two incomparable musicians. A friend of Woody Allen, she had a small speaking part in his film Crimes and Misdemeanors. [15]

Vladimir Horowitz - History

1846 - Debut of Schumann 's Second Symphony in C, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn at The Gewandhaus in Leipzig.

1882 - Birth of American violinist and composer Carl Ellis Epp. Founded orchestra in Terre Haute, IN.

1887 - Birth of Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein in Vienna. He lost his right arm in World War I and became left-handed virtuoso. Ravel wrote a one-handed piano concerto for him!

1929 - American debut of cellist Gregor Piatigorsky .

1936 - Sir John Barbirolli conducted the New York Philharmonic Society Orchestra for the first time.

1995 - "The Wizard of Oz in Concert" (see CD at left) took place for the Children's Defense Fund. The concert featured Jackson Browne as the Scarecrow, Roger Daltrey as the Tin Man, Nathan Lane as the Cowardly Lion and Jewel as Dorothy.

Vladimir Horowitz was born in Berdichev in what is now Ukraine on October 1, 1903. His first piano lessons came from his mother, who was herself a professional pianist. In 1912 he entered the Kiev Conservatory, leaving in 1919, and playing the third piano concerto of Rachmaninoff at his graduation. His first solo recital followed in 1920.

In 1932 he played for the first time with the conductor Arturo Toscanini in a performance of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto (Piano Concerto No. 5). The two became friends, and performed many times together. In fact, in 1933, Horowitz married Wanda Toscanini, the conductor's daughter.

Despite receiving excellent reviews and acclaim from his audience, Horowitz became increasingly unsure of his abilities as a pianist. He withdrew from public performances on several occasions. His wife was the calming influence that allowed him to play at times. After 1970 he rarely performed in public.

Despite his reluctance to perform in public at times, Horowitz made many recordings. He started in 1928 upon his arrival in the United States and recorded until shortly before his death in 1989. After 1953, when Horowitz went into retirement, he made a number of acclaimed recordings at home, including discs of Alexander Scriabin and Muzio Clementi.

In 1962, Horowitz began recording for Columbia Records. These became his most famous, with his 1965 return concert at Carnegie Hall and his 1968 performance from his television special, Horowitz on TV , which featured Scriabin's D# minor Etude and Horowitz's own Variations on a Theme from Carmen , Bizet's opera. He was also famous for his rendition of Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever .

After another brief retirement from 1982 until 1985, Horowitz returned to recording and occasional concertizing. In 1986, Horowitz returned to the Soviet Union, performing in Leningrad and Moscow. This concert was recorded and released, entitled Horowitz in Moscow .

This Week in Music History: Vladimir Horowitz is Born (1903)

Classical music has such a long, storied history, that it can be difficult to know where to start. Each week, we’ll be exploring an important event that left its mark. This week? The surprisingly mysterious date of birth of legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz…

It’s not entirely clear when Vladimir Horowitz was born, or where. The date was October 1 (in the ‘new’, Gregorian style), but the year isn’t certain. He was once thought to have been born in 1904, but it seems that his passport was doctored in 1925—the year he left the Soviet Union—so that it said he was a year younger than he really was. Why? So that the talented young pianist wouldn’t have to do military service. As for his place of birth, Horowitz always said it was Kiev, although some sources say Berdichev, a Ukrainian city several hours to the west, where his family may have lived. Kiev is the more likely place, however.

The details of Horowitz’s early years, at any rate, aren’t clear. But one detail shines through like a beacon: he was a very talented pianist. In the documentary film The Last Romantic , Horowitz relates how he was obsessed with the piano from as young as three years old:

Horowitz attended the conservatory in Kiev from the age of nine, and so did his sister Regine. After some eight years of study he made his public debut in 1920, and soon forged a partnership with a fellow Ukrainian who had been studying in St Petersburg: the violinist Nathan Milstein . Their futures would be closely linked.

Horowitz and Milstein left the Soviet Union together in late 1925. They had obtained permission to tour Europe, and, beginning in Berlin, they were hugely successful. Whether by accident or design, the pair stayed put in the West: Milstein never returned, and Horowitz only did so many decades later, towards the end of his life.

The pianist’s American debut came in 1928, as soloist in Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto with the New York Philharmonic and Thomas Beecham, who, as it happens, was also making his debut there. Horowitz was lauded, although this was not the brilliant collaboration it might have been, with disagreements about tempi marring the performance—but there were other legends with whom the pianist got on rather better. One was fellow expatriate Sergei Rachmaninoff, who said Horowitz played his Second Sonata better than he did. Another was conductor Arturo Toscanini, whose daughter, Wanda, married Horowitz in Milan in 1933.

Despite all the success he achieved, Horowitz did not have an easy life, and he retired from the stage four times over the course of his career—he didn’t play in public at all during the twelve years from 1953 to 1965. But the public retained their devotion to him, waiting all night to get tickets to his comeback concert at Carnegie Hall in 1965.

And his fans back home waited even longer: 61 years. “Going back to Russia was the high point of his career”, Wanda says in Peter Gelb’s moving film of “reminiscences” . You can see—and hear—the emotion coursing through the hall in his legendary 1986 concert , a fitting coda to the career of one of the century’s great pianists at the age of 83. Or, possibly, 82.

Dive into our Horowitz archives with an intimate documentary portrait or his legendary concert in Moscow…

Watch the video: Vladimir Horowitz plays Chopin Polonaise in A flat major (May 2022).