Today is the 116th birthday of the pianist Vladimir Horowitz. Listen to the first video, if you don’t want to watch the whole clip, skip ahead to 1:18:35 to hear Prokofiev: Toccata in D minor. The next video, he is well into his 80s. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: Vladimir Horowitz
BIRTH DATE: October 1, 1903
DEATH DATE: November 5, 1989
DID YOU KNOW?: Vladimir Horowitz performed for President Herbert Hoover in 1931.
EDUCATION: Kiev Conservatory
PLACE OF BIRTH: Kiev, Ukraine
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
REMAINS: Buried, Cimitero Monumentale, Milan, Italy
HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME 1680 Vine Street (recordings)
WOLF PRIZE IN THE ARTS 1982 (with Olivier Messiaen and Josef Tal)
NATIONAL MEDAL OF ARTS 1989 (posthumous)
BEST KNOWN FOR: Vladimir Horowitz was a Ukrainian-born, American classical pianist who is considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.
Famed classical pianist Vladimir Samoylovych Horowitz was born on October 1, 1903, in Kiev, Ukraine. His mother, a pianist herself, provided him with piano lessons at an early age—marking the start of his lifelong love of piano.
Showing a knack for this instrument, Horowitz enrolled at the Kiev Conservatory in 1912. He studied there until 1919, and upon graduation, performed Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 by Sergei Rachmaninov. Horowitz’s father respected his son’s talent, so much so that he changed his son’s age by listing his birth year as 1904 to avoid military service, thus protecting the prodigy’s hands.
Vladimir Horowitz soon began performing throughout Russia to much fanfare. Known for his expert technique and ability to create excitement through his music, he performed internationally in cities such as Berlin, London and New York City.
In 1928, Horowitz made his debut in America at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City. Along with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, he performed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 B-flat minor, Op. 23. His fame grew in the United States, and in 1931, President Herbert Hoover asked him to play at the White House.
Horowitz’s performances stood out as the premier interpretation of many compositions, including Franz Liszt’s Sonata in B minor in 1932. That same year, he began collaborations with conductor Arturo Toscanini. Over the years, the two would continue to perform and record together.
Despite his success, Horowitz began doubting his abilities. His insecurities prevented him from performing, refusing to play in public for long periods of time from 1936 to 1985. During these years, he continued to record his music, which sustained him during his withdrawal periods. Horowitz completed his last recording for Sony Classical four days prior to passing away. To this day, he is considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.
In 1933, Horowitz married Wanda Toscanini, daughter of friend and collaborator Arturo Toscanini. His wife did not speak Russian and Horowitz didn’t know much Italian, so they communicated in French. Wanda’s Catholic upbringing and Horowitz’s Jewish background did not cause strife, as both were inactive in practicing their religion. A year after the couple married, their daughter, Sonia Toscanini Horowitz (1934-1975), was born.
The family moved to New York City in 1940, and four years later, he gained U.S. citizenship. Horowitz died of a heart attack on November 5, 1989, in his adopted city. His body resides in the Toscanini family tomb in Cimitero Monumentale, Milan, Italy.