Horowitz, Vladimir

Alternative names
Birth 1903-10-01
Death 1989-11-05

Biographical notes:

Russian-born pianist.

From the description of The papers of Vladimir and Wanda Toscanini Horowitz, 1784-1991 (inclusive). (Yale University). WorldCat record id: 702150358

Vladimir Horowitz (in Russian, Gorowitz) was born in Berdichev, near Kiev, on October 1, 1903. His father, Simeon, was an electrical engineer, and his mother, Sophie, a pianist. It was Sophie who gave Volodya (as he was affectionately called), his sister, Regina, and brothers Jacob and George, their first music lessons. When he was ten years old, Horowitz entered the Kiev Conservatory where he studied with Vladimir Puchalsky, Sergei Tarnowsky, and Felix Blumenfeld.

At first, Horowitz aspired to be a composer, and as a teenager produced several compositions (the holograph manuscript of one of these works, Etude-fantasie es-dur op. 4 : Les Vagues (dedicated to Tarnovsky), is among the Papers). But revolution and the hardships of life under the Bolsheviks intervened, forcing him to abandon his dream of becoming a composer (his dazzling piano transcriptions written later in his career attest to his compositional talents). With his father's successful business and most of their possessions, including the piano, seized by the Bolsheviks, and the Horowitzes living together with all of their relatives in poverty, Vladimir Horowitz was determined to use his phenomenal talent as a pianist to help his family. He graduated from the Conservatory in 1920, giving his first public performance in Kiev on May 30 of that year. His paternal uncle Alexander, a pupil of Scriabin, became his first manager. In 1922, Uncle Alexander was replaced as manager by the state, which then dictated the careers of Horowitz, his sister, and his good friend Nathan Milstein. From 1922 to 1925 he performed extensively in Kharkov, Kiev, Moscow, and Leningrad, and his reputation as a virtuoso grew.

After state management, Horowitz's career was overseen by Alexander Merovitch, who helped Horowitz leave Russia in 1925. The decision to leave was difficult, and the only family member he was to ever see again was his father, once, in 1934. His first performance outside of Russia was in Berlin, on January 2, 1926. From 1926 to 1927 he gave sixty-nine concerts throughout Europe, and became immensely popular with the public. He studied briefly with Alfred Cortot in Paris, in 1928. Horowitz switched management to Arthur Judson, and on January 12, 1928, made his American debut with Sir Thomas Beecham and the New York Philharmonic playing Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto. His debut was sensational; the audience was amazed by his performance. Horowitz's career took off: he performed for sold-out concerts, commanded the highest fees, and became universally celebrated. In 1933 Mr. Horowitz performed Beethoven's Emperor Concerto with Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic as part of a Beethoven cycle. The concert was a great success, and he won the admiration of Toscanini, whose daughter, Wanda, he married on December 21, 1933, in Milan. Their daughter, Sonia, was born in 1934.

The Horowitzes came to the United States in 1939, and he became a citizen in 1942. He gave the world premiere of Samuel Barber's Piano Sonata on December 9, 1949, in Havana. Horowitz began a twelve-year retirement from concert life after his Silver Jubilee concert on February 25, 1953, during which time he made a few recordings. Horowitz made his triumphant return to the concert stage at Carnegie Hall on May 9, 1965. Throngs of eager fans stood in the ticket line overnight, and the tickets were sold out in two hours.

Horowitz's televised recital in September 1968 was a huge success, allowing viewers across the country to see him in performance. After a retirement from 1969 to 1974, during which Horowitz made and reissued recordings, he gave the first piano recital at the new Metropolitan Opera House on November 17, 1974. On January 8, 1978, he celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his American debut at Carnegie Hall playing Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3 with Eugene Ormandy and the New York Philharmonic. He performed in Europe for the first time in thirty-one years in a recital in London's Royal Festival Hall on May 22, 1982, and he played a series of recitals for the first time in Japan in 1983. In the following years he toured Europe and Japan, performed in the United States, and made recordings, videos, telecasts, and films. Horowitz made an historic return to the Soviet Union after a sixty-one year absence in 1986, and for this was later awarded the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Reagan.

Horowitz performed at the White House for Presidents Hoover, Carter, and Reagan. President Bush bestowed upon him the National Medal of Arts in 1989.

On November 1, 1989, Horowitz made what was to be The Last Recording . He died suddenly, on November 5, 1989, of a heart attack. After the funeral in New York, his body was flown to Milan where he was buried in the Toscanini family plot.

From the guide to the The Papers of Vladimir and Wanda Toscanini Horowitz., 1784-1991, (Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University)


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