Vladimir Horowitz

Vladimir Horowitz

Infobox musical artist
Name = Vladimir Horowitz

Landscape =
Background = non_vocal_instrumentalist
Birth_name = Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz
Born = birth date|1903|10|1
Kiev, Russian Empire
Died = death date and age|1989|11|5|1903|10|1
New York City, New York, USA
Genre = Classical
Occupation = Pianist, pedagogue
Years_active = "fl. "1920-1989

Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz ( _he. ולדימיר הורוביץ; _ru. Владимир Самойлович Горовиц, "Vladimir Samojlovič Gorovits"; _uk. Володимир Самійлович Горовиць, "Volodymyr Samiylovich Horovyts") (October 1, 1903 – November 5, 1989) was a Russian-American [The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition Copyright© 2004, Columbia University Press.] [ [http://www.britannica.com/eb/topic-272128/Vladimir-Horowitz Vladimir Horowitz (Russian pianist)] Encyclopaedia Britannica] pianist. In his prime, he was considered one of the most distinguished pianists of any age. His technique, use of tone color and the excitement of his playing are legendary. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.

Life and early career

Horowitz said that he was born in Kiev in the Russian Empire [Schonberg, Harold C. (1992). Horowitz:His Life and Music. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-72568-8] (now the capital of Ukraine), but some sources [Plaskin, Glenn (1983). Biography of Vladimir Horowitz. UK: Macdonald, pp. 52, 56, 353, 338–7. ISBN 0356091791] have given Berdichev as his birthplace. His cousin Natasha Saitzoff, in a 1991 interview, stated that all four children were born in Kiev [Schonberg, Harold C. (1992). Horowitz:His Life and Music. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-72568-8] ; Horowitz's wife, Wanda Toscanini, however, gave credence to the Berdichev possibility. [Schonberg, Harold C. (1992). Horowitz:His Life and Music. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-72568-8] Rabbinical documents also support a Berdichev birth. [Plaskin, Glenn (1983). Biography of Vladimir Horowitz. UK: Macdonald, pp. 52, 56, 353, 338–7. ISBN 0356091791]

He was born in 1903, but in order to make Vladimir appear too young for military service so as not to risk damaging his hands, his father took a year off his son's age by claiming he was born in 1904. The 1904 date appeared in many reference works during the pianist's lifetime.

Horowitz received piano instruction from an early age, initially from his mother, who was herself a competent pianist. In 1912 he entered the Kiev Conservatory, where he was taught by Vladimir Puchalsky, Sergei Tarnowsky, and Felix Blumenfeld. He left the conservatory in 1919 and performed Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor at his graduation. His first solo recital was performed in 1920.

His fame grew, and he soon began to tour Russia where he was often paid with bread, butter and chocolate rather than money, due to the country's economic hardships.cite book
last = Plaskin
first = Glenn
pages = pp. 52, 56, 353, 338–7
title = Biography of Vladimir Horowitz
year = 1983
publisher = Macdonald
location = UK
isbn = 0356091791
] During the 1922-1923 season, he performed 23 concerts of eleven different programs in Leningrad alone. On January 2, 1926, Horowitz made his first appearance outside his home country, in Berlin. He later played in Paris, London and New York City. Horowitz was selected by Soviet authorities to represent Ukraine in the inaugural 1927 Chopin Piano Competition: however the pianist had decided to stay in the West and thus did not participate. [cite book
title=Dmitri Shostakovich, Pianist
publisher=McGill-Queen's University Press
] Horowitz settled in the United States in 1940, and became an American citizen in 1944.

Career in the US

Horowitz gave his U.S. debut on January 12, 1928, in Carnegie Hall. He played Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 under the direction of Sir Thomas Beecham, who was also making his U.S. debut. Horowitz later commented that he and Beecham had divergent ideas regarding tempos, and that Beecham was conducting the score "from memory and he didn't know" the piece.Fact|date=April 2007 Horowitz's success with the audience was phenomenal, and a solo recital was quickly scheduled. Olin Downes, writing for the New York Times, was critical about the metric tug of war between conductor and soloist, but Downes credited Horowitz with both a tremendous technique and a beautiful singing tone in the second movement. [Olin Downes, New York Times, January 13, 1928] In this debut performance, Horowitz demonstrated a marked ability to excite his audience, an ability he preserved for his entire career. As Olin Downes commented, "it has been years since a pianist created such a furor with an audience in this city." In his review of the Horowitz's solo recital, Downes characterized the pianist's playing as showing "most if not all the traits of a great interpreter." [Olin Downes, New York Times, February 21, 1928]

In 1933, he played for the first time with the conductor Arturo Toscanini in a performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 "The Emperor". Horowitz and Toscanini went on to perform together many times, on stage and in recordings.

Despite rapturous receptions at recitals, Horowitz became increasingly unsure of his abilities as a pianist. Several times, he withdrew from public performances - during 1936 to 1938, 1953 to 1965, 1969 to 1974, and 1983 to 1985. On several occasions, Horowitz had to be pushed onto the stage. After his comeback in 1965 he gave solo recitals only rarely. He made his television debut on September 22, 1968, in a concert televised by CBS from Carnegie Hall.


Horowitz made numerous recordings, starting in 1928, upon his arrival in the United States. His first recordings in the US were made for RCA Victor. Because of the economic impact of the Great Depression, RCA Victor agreed to allow its recording artists' European-produced recordings to be made by HMV, RCA's London based affiliate. Horowitz's first European recording, in 1930, was of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 with Albert Coates and the London Symphony Orchestra, the world premiere recording of that piece. Through 1936, Horowitz continued to make recordings for HMV of solo piano repertoire, including his famous 1932 account of Franz Liszt's Sonata in B minor. Beginning in 1940, Horowitz's recording activity was again concentrated in the United States. That year, he recorded Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2, and in 1941, made his first recording of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1, both with the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Toscanini. In 1959, RCA issued the live 1943 performance of the concerto with Horowitz and Toscanini; someWho|date=June 2007 say it is superior to the commercial recording. Beginning in 1953, when Horowitz went into retirement, he made a series of recordings in his New York townhouse, including discs of Scriabin and Clementi. Horowitz's first stereo recording, made in 1959, was devoted to Beethoven piano sonatas.

In 1962, Horowitz embarked on a series of highly acclaimed recordings for Columbia Records. The most famous among them are his 1965 return concert at Carnegie Hall and a 1968 recording from his television special, "Vladimir Horowitz: a Concert at Carnegie Hall", televised by CBS. Horowitz also continued to make studio recordings, including a 1969 recording of "Kreisleriana" by Robert Schumann, which was awarded the Prix Mondial du Disque.

In 1975, Horowitz returned to RCA Victor, and made a series of live recordings until 1982. He signed with Deutsche Grammophon in 1985, and made both studio and live recordings until 1989, including his only recording of the Piano Concerto No. 23 (Mozart). Four filmed documents were made during this time, including the telecast of his April 20, 1986 Moscow recital. His final recording, for Sony Classical, was completed four days before his death.


Beginning in 1944, Horowitz began working with a select group of young pianists. First among these was Byron Janis, who studied with Horowitz until 1948. Janis described his relationship to Horowitz during that period as that of a surrogate son, and he often traveled with Horowitz and his wife during concert tours. During his second retirement he worked with more pianists, including Gary Graffman (1953-1955), Coleman Blumfield (1956-1958), Ronald Turini (1957-1963), Alexander Fiorillo (1950-1962) and Ivan Davis (1961-1962). Horowitz returned to coaching in the 1980s, working with Murray Perahia, who already had an established career, and Eduardus Halim. By this time, Horowitz was concerned that a pianist studying with him might be regarded as a Horowitz clone, so the sessions were not publicized and Horowitz insisted "I am not teaching you. I give you tips." Late in his career, Horowitz only endorsed Janis, Graffman, and Turini as pupils, although he admitted a number of pianists had played for him.

Personal life

In 1933, in a civil ceremony, Horowitz married Toscanini's daughter Wanda. Horowitz was Jewish and Wanda Catholic, but this was not an issue as neither was observant. As Wanda knew no Russian and Horowitz knew very little Italian, their primary language became French. They had one child, Sonia Toscanini Horowitz (1934-1975).

Despite his marriage, there is considerable independent evidence that Horowitz was gay [Plaskin, Glenn (1983). Biography of Vladimir Horowitz. UK: Macdonald, pp. 52, 56, 353, 338–7. ISBN 0356091791] . He is credited with the quote: "There are three kinds of pianists: Jewish pianists, homosexual pianists, and bad pianists". [cite web|url = http://www.forward.com/articles/the-great-white-jewish-gay-way|title = The Great White (Jewish, Gay) Way]

Horowitz underwent psychological treatment in the 1950s in an attempt to alter his sexual orientation. In the early 1960s and again in the early 1970s, he underwent electroshock therapy for depression.

The last years

In 1982, Horowitz began using prescribed anti-depressant medications, and his playing underwent a perceptible decline. [Schonberg, Harold C. (1992). Horowitz:His Life and Music. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-72568-8.] The pianist’s 1983 performances in the United States and Japan were marred by memory lapses and a loss of physical control. By 1985, Horowitz, no longer taking medication, returned to concertizing and recording and was back on form. In many of his later performances, the octogenarian pianist substituted finesse and coloration for bravura, although he was still capable of remarkable technical feats.

In 1986, Horowitz returned to the Soviet Union to give a series of concerts in Moscow and Leningrad. In the new atmosphere of communication and understanding between the USSR and the USA, these concerts were seen as events of some political, as well as musical, significance. That year, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed by the United States, by President Ronald Reagan. The Moscow concert, which was internationally televised, was released on a compact disc entitled "Horowitz in Moscow", which reigned at the top of Billboard's Classical music charts for over a year. His final tour took place in Europe in the spring of 1987. A video recording of one of his last public recitals, "Horowitz in Vienna", was released in 1991. His final recital, in Hamburg, Germany, took place on June 21, 1987. He continued to record for the remainder of his life.

Vladimir Horowitz died on November 5, 1989 in New York of a heart attack. He was buried in the Toscanini family tomb in Cimitero Monumentale, Milan, Italy.

Repertoire and technique

Horowitz is best known for his performances of the Romantic piano repertoire. His first recording of the Liszt Sonata in 1932 is still considered by some aficionados [See, e.g., Joachim Kaiser and Klaus Bennert, Grosse Pianisten in Unserer Zeit (1997)] to be the definitive reading of that piece, after over 75 years and over 100 performances committed to disc by other pianists. Other pieces with which he was closely associated were Scriabin's "Etude in D-sharp minor, Op. 8, No. 12 ", Chopin's "Ballade No. 1 in G minor", and many Rachmaninoff miniatures, including "Polka de W.R." He is also acclaimed for his recordings of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3, as well as for his famous hair-raising transcriptions of several of Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsodies". The "Second Rhapsody" was recorded in 1953, during Horowitz's 25th anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall, and he stated that it was the most difficult of his transcriptions. [Harold C. Schonberg, Horowitz-His Life and Music, Simon & Schuster, 1992] Horowitz's other transcriptions of note include his composition "Variations on a Theme from Carmen by Georges Bizet" and "Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Philip Sousa. The latter became a favourite with audiences, who would anticipate its performance as an encore. Later in life, he refrained from playing it altogether, feeling, "the audience would forget the concert and only remember Stars and Stripes, you know."Fact|date=March 2007 Horowitz was also well known for his performances of quieter, more intimate works including Schumann's "Kinderszenen", Scarlatti sonatas, and several Mozart sonatas. During World War II, Horowitz championed contemporary Russian music, giving the American premieres of Prokofiev's Piano Sonatas Nos. 6, 7 and 8 (the so-called "War Sonatas") and Kabalevsky's Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 and 3. Horowitz also premiered the Piano Sonata and "Excursions" of Samuel Barber.

Horowitz's interpretations were well received by concert audiences, but not by some critics. Virgil Thomson was famous for his consistent criticism of Horowitz as a "master of distortion and exaggeration" in his reviews appearing in the "New York Herald Tribune". In the 1980 "Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians", Michael Steinberg wrote that Horowitz "illustrates that an astounding instrumental gift carries no guarantee about musical understanding." However, many famous pianists, amongst them Shura Cherkassky, Earl Wild, Lazar Berman, John Browning, Van Cliburn, Maurizio Pollini, Murray Perahia and Yefim Bronfman held Horowitz in high regard and expressed their admiration for him. [David Dubal, Remembering Horowitz - 125 Pianists Recall a Legend, Schirmer Books, 1993] The style of Horowitz frequently involved vast dynamic contrasts, with overwhelming double-fortissimos followed by sudden delicate pianissimos. He was able to produce an extraordinary volume of sound from the piano, without producing a harsh tone. He could elicit an exceptionally wide range of tonal color from the piano, and his taut, precise, and exciting attack was noticeable even in his renditions of technically undemanding pieces such as the Chopin Mazurkas. He is also famous for his octave technique; he could play precise scales in octaves extraordinarily fast. When asked by the pianist Tedd Joselson how he practiced octaves, Joselson reports, "He practiced them exactly as we were all taught to do." [cite book
last = Schonberg
first = Harold C.
title = Horowitz:His Life and Music
year = 1992
publisher = Simon and Schuster
location =
isbn = 0-671-72568-8
] Horowitz's hand position was unusual in that the palm was often below the level of the key surface. He frequently played chords with straight fingers, and the little finger of his right hand was often curled up until it needed to play a note; as "New York Times" music critic Harold C. Schonberg put it, “it was like a strike of a cobra.” [cite book
last = Schonberg
first = Harold C.
pages = p. 436
title = The Great Pianists from Mozart to the Present
year = 1963
publisher = Simon and Schuster
location =
oclc = 563987
] Sergei Rachmaninoff himself commented that Horowitz plays contrary to how they had been taught, yet somehow with Horowitz it worked.Fact|date=November 2007 Another account has it that when Horowitz was asked by an interviewer why he played his octaves so loud and so fast, his response was, “Because I can!”Fact|date=November 2007 Music critic and biographer Harvey Sachs submitted that Horowitz may have been "the beneficiary - and perhaps also the victim - of an extraordinary central nervous system and an equally great sensitivity to tone colour". [Harvey Sachs, "Virtuoso", Thames and Hudson, 1982] "
Oscar Levant, in his book, "The Memoirs of an Amnesiac", wrote that Horowitz's octaves were "brilliant, accurate and etched out like bullets." He asked Horowitz, "whether he shipped them ahead or carried them with him on tour".

For all the aural excitement of his playing, Horowitz rarely raised his hands higher than the piano's fallboard. His body was immobile, and his face seldom reflected anything other than perhaps intense concentration.

Awards and recognitions

Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance - Instrumental Soloist or Soloists
*1987 "Horowitz: The Studio Recordings, New York 1985" (Deutsche Grammophon 419217)
*1969 "Horowitz on Television: Chopin, Scriabin, Scarlatti, Horowitz" (Columbia 7106)
*1968 "Horowitz in Concert: Haydn, Schumann, Scriabin, Debussy, Mozart, Chopin" (Columbia 45572)

Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance
*1989 "Horowitz Plays Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 23 " (Deutsche Grammophon 423287)
*1979 "Golden Jubilee Concert", "Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3" (RCA CLR1 2633)

Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance
*1993 "Horowitz Discovered Treasures: Chopin, Liszt, Scarlatti, Scriabin, Clementi" (Sony 48093)
*1991 "The Last Recording" (Sony SK 45818)
*1988 "Horowitz in Moscow" (Deutsche Grammophon 419499)
*1982 "The Horowitz Concerts 1979/80" (RCA ARL1-3775)
*1980 "The Horowitz Concerts 1978/79" (RCA ARL1-3433)
*1979 "The Horowitz Concerts 1977/78" (RCA ARL1-2548)
*1977 "The Horowitz Concerts 1975/76" (RCA ARL1-1766)
*1974 "Horowitz Plays Scriabin" (Columbia M-31620)
*1973 "Horowitz Plays Chopin" (Columbia M-30643)
*1972 "Horowitz Plays Rachmaninoff (Etudes-Tableaux Piano Music; Sonatas)" (Columbia M-30464)

Grammy Award for Best Classical Album:
*"Columbia Records Presents Vladimir Horowitz"
*1966 "Horowitz at Carnegie Hall: An Historic Return"
*1972 "Horowitz Plays Rachmaninoff (Etudes-Tableaux Piano Music; Sonatas)"
*1978 "Concert of the Century" with Leonard Bernstein (conductor), the New York Philharmonic, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Vladimir Horowitz, Yehudi Menuhin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Isaac Stern, Lyndon Woodside
*1988 "Horowitz in Moscow" (Deutsche Grammophon 419499)
*1987 "Horowitz: The Studio Recordings, New York 1985" (Deutsche Grammophon 419217)

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, 1990

Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Classical:
*1966 "Horowitz at Carnegie Hall — An Historic Return"
*1987 "Horowitz: The Studio Recordings, New York 1985" (Deutsche Grammophon 419217)

Video Links

* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq7ncjhSqtk Vladimir Horowitz plays Traumerei]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhnRIuGZ_dc Vladimir Horowitz plays Chopin's first Ballade]
* [http://video.google.ca/videosearch?q=horowitz Lots of Horowitz clips]



External links

*The Horowitz Papers at the [http://webtext.library.yale.edu/xml2html/Music/vh-d.htm Yale University Irving S. Gilmore Music Library]
*Vladimir Horowitz at [http://www.sonyclassical.com/artists/horowitz_vladimir/ Sony Classical]
*Vladimir Horowitz at the [http://w1.854.telia.com/~u85420275/ Vladimir Horowitz Website] (Fansite)
*Vladimir Horowitz at the [http://www.VlHorowitz.net/ Vladimir Horowitz Experience] (Fansite)
*Vladimir Horowitz at the [http://www.klavier.m256.net/ Vladimir Horowitz Video] (Fansite)

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