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.
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