Vladimir Horowitz: Wiki, Music Career, Technique & Performance
Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz was a Russian-born American classical pianist and composer who lived from October 1, 1903, until November 5, 1989. He was renowned for his virtuoso technique, tone color, and the thrill generated by his playing. He was considered one of the finest pianists of all time.
Vladimir Horowitz was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, which was part of the Russian Empire at the time. Horowitz's birth certificate clearly indicates that he was born in Kyiv, despite unfounded allegations that he was born in Berdychiv.
Horowitz was the youngest of four children born to assimilated Jews, Samuil Horowitz, and Sophia Bodik. Samuel was a well-to-do electrical engineer who also worked as a distributor for German electric motor manufacturers. Horowitz's grandfather, Joachim Horowitz, was a merchant (and art patron) who belonged to the 1st Guild, which freed him from having to live in the Pale of Settlement. Horowitz was born in 1903, but his father omitted a year from his son's age to make him seem too young for military duty and to avoid injuring his hands. During the pianist's lifetime, the year 1904 was featured in many reference books.
Alexander Scriabin's uncle, Horowitz, was a student and close friend of Alexander Scriabin. Horowitz was scheduled to play for Scriabin when he was ten years old, and Scriabin informed his parents that he was very gifted.
Horowitz began learning to play the piano at a young age, first from his mother, who was also a musician. He enrolled at the Kyiv Conservatory in 1912 and studied under Vladimir Puchalsky, Sergei Tarnowsky, and Felix Blumenfeld. In 1920, he had his debut solo performance in Kharkiv.
Horowitz started touring Russia shortly after, and owing to the economic difficulties created by the Civil War, he was often compensated with bread, butter, and chocolate rather than money.
During the 1922–23 season, he gave 23 performances in Petrograd, with eleven different programs. Horowitz, despite his early success as a pianist, said that he intended to be a composer and only became a musician to support his family, who had lost everything in the Russian Revolution.
Horowitz moved to the West in December 1925, allegedly to study with Artur Schnabel in Berlin, but secretly did not plan to return. To fund his first performances, the 22-year-old pianist tucked American dollars and British pounds into his shoes.
Vladimir Horowitz married Wanda Toscanini, Arturo Toscanini's daughter, in a civil wedding in 1933. Even though Horowitz was Jewish and Wanda was Roman Catholic, none of them was religiously observant. Their main language was French since Wanda knew no Russian and Horowitz knew very little Italian. Horowitz was close to his wife, who was one of the few individuals who would take criticism of his playing, and she remained with Horowitz when he refused to leave the home during a depressive episode. Sonia Toscanini Horowitz (1934–1975) was their only child. In a motorcycle accident in 1957, she was severely wounded but survived. In 1975, she passed away. Her death in Geneva from a narcotics overdose was not found to be an accident or a suicide.
Despite his marriage, suspicions about Horowitz's homosexuality persisted. "Everyone knew and accepted him as a gay," Arthur Rubinstein remarked of Horowitz. There was no indication that Horowitz was sexually active during his time with him, but "there was no question he was strongly drawn to the male body and was most likely frequently sexually unsatisfied throughout his life," according to David Dubal. Horowitz, according to Dubal, transformed a strong innate sensuality into a compelling erotic undertone in his playing. "There are three types of pianists: Jewish pianists, gay pianists, and lousy pianists," Horowitz, who denied being homosexual, often quipped.
Kenneth Leedom, Horowitz's helper for five years before 1955, claimed to have been Horowitz's secret lover in a September 2013 story in The New York Times: "We had an amazing time together...
To say the least, he was a tough person. He had an unfathomable amount of rage. I can't tell you how many dinners I've tossed on the floor or my lap. He'd take up the tablecloth and just yank it off the table, scattering the food. He threw a lot of tantrums. But suddenly he became nice and peaceful. very loving and nice. And he was enamored with me. "
Horowitz started visiting a psychiatrist in the 1940s to change his sexual orientation.
The pianist had electroshock therapy for depression in the 1960s and again in the 1970s.
Horowitz started using prescription depression medicines in 1982, and there are allegations that he also drank alcohol. During this time, his playing deteriorated noticeably, with memory lapses and a lack of physical control marrying his 1983 performances in the United States and Japan. Horowitz has been compared to a "beautiful antique vase that is broken" by one Japanese reviewer. He took a two-year hiatus from performing in public.
Horowitz resumed performing and recording in 1985, having stopped taking medicine and consuming alcohol. His first public appearance after retirement was in the documentary film Vladimir Horowitz: The Last Romantic, rather than on stage. Although he was still capable of amazing technical achievements, the octogenarian pianist chose delicacy and color over bravura in many of his later performances. Many reviewers, including Harold C. Schonberg and Richard Dyer, believed that his performances and recordings after 1985 were his finest.
Horowitz stated in 1986 that he would return to the Soviet Union to perform recitals in Moscow and Leningrad for the first time since 1925. These performances were regarded as political as well as musical events in the new climate of dialogue and understanding between the USSR and the US. The majority of tickets for the Moscow performance were reserved for the Soviet elite, with just a handful being made available to the general public.
As a consequence, a group of Moscow Conservatory students disrupted the performance, which was heard by spectators of the globally broadcast recital. Horowitz in Moscow, a compact CD of the Moscow performance, was published and spent almost a year at the top of Billboard's Classical music charts. It was also available on VHS and, later, DVD. The performance was also broadcast on CBS News Sunday Morning's Special Edition, with Charles Kuralt reporting from Moscow.
Horowitz visited many European cities after the Russian performances, including Berlin, Amsterdam, and London. Horowitz made up for the Japanese in June with a series of well-received concerts in Tokyo. Later that year, President Ronald Reagan presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor given by the United States.
Horowitz finished his last tour in Europe in the spring of 1987. Horowitz in Vienna, a video recording of his final public performance, was published in 1991. On June 21, 1987, he gave his last performance at the Musikhalle Hamburg, Germany. Although the performance was taped, it was not published until 2008. He kept on recording for the rest of his life.
Vladimir Horowitz died of a heart attack on November 5, 1989, in New York City, at the age of 86.
He was laid to rest at the Toscanini family mausoleum in Milan's Cimitero Monumentale.
Horowitz is well known for his interpretations of Romantic piano works. Even after more than 75 years and more than 100 performances committed to disc by various pianists, many consider Horowitz's debut recording of Liszt's Sonata in B minor in 1932 to be the canonical interpretation of the work. Scriabin's Étude in D-sharp minor, Chopin's Ballade No. 1, and numerous Rachmaninoff miniatures, notably Polka de W.R., were among the works with which he was intimately connected. Horowitz was well-known for his performances of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, and his performance in front of the composer astonished him. "He downed the entire thing. He had the guts, the zeal, and the audacity to take risks. " Horowitz was also renowned for his calmer, more personal performances, including Schumann's Kinderszenen, Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas, Clementi's keyboard sonatas, and several Mozart and Haydn sonatas. His recordings of Scarlatti and Clementi are especially lauded, and he is credited with reigniting interest in the two composers' works, which were seldom performed or recorded in the first half of the twentieth century.
Horowitz promoted modern Russian music during WWII, performing the American debuts of Prokofiev's Piano Sonatas Nos. 6, 7, and 8 (the "War Sonatas") and Kabalevsky's Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 and 3. Horowitz also debuted Samuel Barber's Piano Sonata and Excursions. Horowitz is well known for his interpretations of Romantic piano works. Even after more than 75 years and more than 100 performances committed to disc by various pianists, many consider Horowitz's debut recording of Liszt's Sonata in B minor in 1932 to be the canonical interpretation of the work. Scriabin's Étude in D-sharp minor, Chopin's Ballade No. 1, and numerous Rachmaninoff miniatures, notably Polka de W.R., were among the works with which he was intimately connected. Horowitz was well-known for his performances of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, and his performance in front of the composer astonished him. "He downed the entire thing. He had the guts, the zeal, and the audacity to take risks.
"Horowitz was also renowned for his calmer, more personal performances, including Schumann's Kinderszenen, Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas, Clementi's keyboard sonatas, and several Mozart and Haydn sonatas. His recordings of Scarlatti and Clementi are especially lauded, and he is credited with reigniting interest in the two composers' works, which were seldom performed or recorded in the first half of the twentieth century.
Horowitz promoted modern Russian music during WWII, performing the American debuts of Prokofiev's Piano Sonatas Nos. 6, 7, and 8 (the "War Sonatas") and Kabalevsky's Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 and 3. Horowitz also debuted Samuel Barber's Piano Sonata and Excursions. He was well-known for his interpretations of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies. Horowitz claimed the Second Rhapsody was the most challenging of his arrangements, which he recorded for his 25th-anniversary performance at Carnegie Hall in 1953. Horowitz's transcriptions include his work Variations on a Theme from Carmen and John Philip Sousa's The Stars and Stripes Forever. The latter became a fan favorite, with crowds eagerly anticipating its repeat performance.
Horowitz was not averse to changing the text of works to enhance what he deemed "non pianistic" writing or structural awkwardness, apart from transcriptions. Horowitz produced his performance edition of Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Sonata from the 1913 original and 1931 revised versions with the composer's permission in 1940, which pianists such as Ruth Laredo and Hélène Grimaud have utilized. He reworked most of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition to make them more effective, claiming that Mussorgsky was not a pianist and didn't grasp the instrument's potential. Horowitz also changed small sections in certain pieces, like Chopin's Scherzo in B minor, where he substituted interlocking octaves for chromatic scales. This was in sharp contrast to many posts–19th-century pianists, who held the composer's text in high regard. Living composers whose pieces Horowitz performed (including Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and Poulenc) always complimented his performances, even when he deviated from their compositions. Horowitz's performances were favorably appreciated by concertgoers, but not by reviewers. In his reviews for the New York Herald Tribune, Virgil Thomson frequently referred to Horowitz as a "master of distortion and exaggeration."
Horowitz claimed to interpret Thomson's comments in a positive light, claiming that Michelangelo and El Greco were both "masters of distortion."Horowitz" illustrates that an amazing instrumental talent offers no assurance regarding musical comprehension, according to Michael Steinberg in the 1980 edition of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Reviewers like Thomson and Steinberg, according to New York Times music writer Harold C. Schonberg, were unfamiliar with the 19th-century performing techniques that influenced Horowitz's compositional style. Horowitz is revered by many pianists, including Martha Argerich and Maurizio Pollini, and the musician Friedrich Gulda referred to him as the "over-God of the piano."
Horowitz's style included a lot of big dramatic contrasts, such as huge double-fortissimos followed by delicate pianissimos. He was able to generate an incredible amount of volume from the piano without creating a harsh tone. Even in technically undemanding works like the Chopin Mazurkas, he produced an unusually broad range of tone colors, and his tight, precise attack was evident. He was renowned for his octave technique, which let him play accurate octave passages at breakneck speed. Horowitz provided an example when pianist Tedd Joselson asked how he practiced octaves, and Joselson stated, "He studied them precisely as we were all instructed to do." Horowitz may have been "the beneficiary—and maybe also the victim—of an exceptional central nervous system and an equally outstanding sensitivity to tone color," according to music critic and historian Harvey Sachs. Horowitz's octaves were "brilliant, accurate, and carved out like bullets," according to Oscar Levant in his book The Memoirs of an Amnesiac. "Did he send them ahead or carry them with him on tour?" he inquired of Horowitz.
Horowitz's palm was often below the level of the key surface, which was uncommon. He typically played chords with straight fingers, and his right hand's little finger was curled up until it was required to play a note; Harold C. Schonberg described it as "like a cobra attack." Horowitz seldom lifted his hands higher than the piano's fallboard, despite the intensity of his playing. Byron Janis, one of his pupils, claimed he attempted to teach him the method but it didn't work for him. His body remained still, and his face showed nothing but intense concentration.
Horowitz liked to play on Sunday afternoons because he believed that audiences were more rested and attentive than on weeknight nights.