Vladimir Horowitz

From Academic Kids

Vladimir Horowitz (ru: Владимир Самойлович Горовиц) (October 1, 1903 (or 1904)–November 5, 1989) was a classical pianist. His use of colors, technique and the excitement of his playing are by many thought to be unrivalled, and his performances of works as diverse as those of Domenico Scarlatti and Alexander Scriabin were equally legendary. Detractors are quick to point out that his output is uniformly "Horowitzian" and sometimes mannered, and often too much so to be true to the composer's intentions. Even so, he has a huge and passionate following and is generally regarded as one of the greatest pianists of all time.

Missing image
Portrait of Vladimir Horowitz, captured from the documentary The Last Romantic.

Life and career

It was long believed that Horowitz was born in Kiev in Ukraine, but it now seems that he was born in in Berdichev. Horowitz had piano lessons from an early age, initially from his mother, who was herself a professional pianist. In 1912 he entered the Kiev Conservatory, leaving in 1919, and playing the Piano Concerto No. 3 of Rachmaninoff at his graduation. His first solo recital followed in 1920.

His star rapidly rose — he soon began to tour Russia (where he was often paid with bread, butter and liquor rather than money due to the country's economic hardships), and in 1926 made his first appearance outside his home country, in Berlin. He later played in Paris, London and New York City, and it was in the United States that he eventually settled in 1940. He became a United States citizen in 1944.

Career in the US

In 1932 he played for the first time with the conductor Arturo Toscanini in a performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 (the Emperor concerto). The two went on to appear together many times, both on stage and on record. In 1933, Horowitz married Wanda Toscanini, the conductor's daughter.

Despite receiving rapturous receptions at his recitals, Horowitz became increasingly unsure of his abilities as a pianist. Several times he withdrew from public performances, and it is said that on several occasions, the only thing that stopped him from cancelling recitals at the last moment was the persuasiveness of his wife. After 1970 he gave solo recitals only rarely.

Horowitz made many recordings, starting in 1928 upon his arrival in the United States and ending right before his death in 1989. His early recordings were made for EMI, the most notable of which is his 1930 recording of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 with Albert Coates and the London Symphony Orchestra, the first known recording of that piece. In the 1940s and 1950s, Horowitz recorded for RCA Victor. During this period, he made his first recording of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1. 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, and it is these recordings which are among the most well known. The most famous among them is his 1965 return concert at Carnegie Hall and his 1968 performance from his television special, Horowitz on TV, featuring Scriabin's Etude Op. 8 No. 12 and Horowitz's own Variations on a Theme from Bizet's Carmen, the most famous of his piano transcriptions along with the Stars and Stripes Forever. From 1965 until 1982, all of Horowitz's recordings were done live.

The last years

Missing image
Vladimir Horowitz at his 1986 Moscow recital. Screenshot from the DVD release of the concert.

After another brief retirement from 1982 until 1985 (he was playing in a drugged state and as a result, memory lapses and loss of physical control occurred during his tour of America and Japan), Horowitz returned to recording and occasional concertizing. In 1986, Horowitz made a return 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. The Moscow concert was recorded and released, entitled Horowitz in Moscow.

Vladimir Horowitz died in New York of a heart attack. He was buried in the Toscanini family tomb in Cimitero Monumentale, Milan, Italy. His body was rumored to have been buried along with a book Hanon's piano excercises, because according to Horowitz, "I never want to do anything without warming up; that includes dying." Horowitz was 86.

Repertoire and technique

Horowitz is best known for his performances of the romantic repertoire, with his six recordings of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 and Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies being particularly highly acclaimed. He is also famous for his transcriptions, the most extensive being the complete rewriting of the piano version of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and the most exciting being the impossibly difficult transcription of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. Towards the end of the Friska section of this piece, Horowitz appears to have three hands as he combines all the themes of the piece resulting in a fantastic finale. He only recorded it once in 1953 for his 25th anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall and he said, "it is probably the hardest piece I have ever played." Other transcriptions of note are his Variations on a Theme from Bizet's Carmen and of course, Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever. Audiences would not let him leave the concert hall until he played his "scoring" of this piece. Later in life, he abstained from playing it altogether, as he said "the audience would forget the concert and only remember Stars and Stripes, you know." Other well-known recordings include works by Schumann, Scriabin, Chopin and Schubert. He did much to champion contemporary Russian music, giving the American premieres of Sergei Prokofiev's 6th, 7th and 8th piano sonatas. He also premiered Samuel Barber's Piano Sonata.

He was sometimes accused of self indulgence in his performances, but his extravagances were always well received by his audiences. Indeed, there are "bravo!"s in all his recorded live performances. He is most famous for his octave technique; his scales in octaves move so rapidly his hands appear a blur. He had an unusual technique, playing with very straight fingers and low wrists. The little finger of his right hand was always curled tight until it needed to play a note, and as Harold Schonberg rightly put it, "it was like a strike of a cobra".

Awards and Recognitions

Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance - Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (with or without orchestra):

Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with orchestra):

Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra):

  • Vladimir Horowitz for Horowitz Plays Rachmaninoff (Etudes-Tableaux Piano Music; Sonatas) (1972)
  • Vladimir Horowitz for Horowitz Plays Chopin (1973)
  • Vladimir Horowitz for Horowitz Plays Scriabin (1974)
  • Vladimir Horowitz for Horowitz Concerts 1975/76 (1977)
  • Vladimir Horowitz for The Horowitz Concerts 1977/78 (1979)
  • Vladimir Horowitz for The Horowitz Concerts 1978/79 (1980)
  • Vladimir Horowitz for The Horowitz Concerts 1979/80 (1982)
  • Vladimir Horowitz for Horowitz in Moscow (1988)
  • Vladimir Horowitz for Horowitz — Discovered Treasures (Chopin, Liszt, Scarlatti, Scriabin, Clementi) (1993)
  • Vladimir Horowitz for The Last Recording' (1991)

Grammy Award for Best Classical Album:

Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, 1990

Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Classical:

  • Fred Plaut (engineer) & Vladimir Horowitz for Horowitz at Carnegie Hall — An Historic Return (1966)
  • Paul Goodman (engineer) & Vladimir Horowitz for Horowitz — The Studio Recordings, New York 1985 (1987)

External links

ja:ヴラディーミル・ホロヴィッツ no:Vladimir Horowitz


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