Persons related to Chopin Persons related to Chopin

Vladimir  Horowitz

Vladimir Horowitz

Vladimir  Horowitz

*1 X 1903 Berdyczów lub Kijów, †5 XI 1989 Nowy Jork

Vladimir Horowitz was born into the family of a rich Jewish industrialist on the Ukraine. He started playing the piano at the age of six with his mother, and later studied at the Kiev Conservatoire with Vladimir Pukhalsky, Sergei Tarnovsky and Felix Blumenfeld. In this period he was also active as a composer, writing miniatures and piano transcriptions (he recorded a few pieces on disc). He graduated in 1920 and immediately enrolled on a virtuoso career to support his family impoverished after the business of Horowitz's father was nationalized during the Revolution. Between 1920 and 1925 Horowitz appeared as a soloist and chamber musician (mostly with violinist Nathan Milstein) throughout Russia with outstanding success.

In 1925 Horowitz fled Russia and went to Germany, where after initial difficulties he achieved tremendous success in Hamburg by substituting an ill pianist in Tchaikovsky's Concerto in B Flat Minor. His career progressed successfully in Europe, and in 1928 Horowitz made his American debut.

In 1933 he married Arturo Toscanini's daughter Wanda (1907-1998); the couple had one daughter, Sonia (1934-1974). In 1939 Horowitz moved permanently to New York, obtaining American citizenship in 1944. His thunderous virtuoso career was interrupted by long periods of retirement due to health reasons (1936-1938, 1953-1965, 1969-1974, 1983-1985); during such periods Horowitz would work on new repertoire and record in the studio.

After his longest, 12-year retirement he made a famous comeback with a Carnegie Hall recital on 9th May 1965. Another historic concert took place on 8th January 1978 when Horowitz performed Rachmaninov's 3rd Concerto in D Minor on the 50th anniversary of his US debut. In May 1982 Horowitz appeared for the first time in over 30 years in London, later also in Paris, Milan, Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna and Amsterdam. In 1986, 61 years after he left Russia, Horowitz gave memorable recitals in Moscow and Leningrad. He remained active until the end of his life, recording a CD just 10 days before his death of a heart attack at the age of 86.

Horowitz started recording early (1926). His output includes over 70 long-play records. He worked with the following record companies: Welte-Mignon and Duo-Art (a dozen piano roll recordings, 1926-28), HMV (1930-36 and 1951), RCA Victor (1928-1959 and 1976-1982), Columbia (1962-1973), Deutsche Grammophon (1985-1989) and Sony Classical (1989). Officially released Horowitz recordings are either studio recordings or heavily edited live recordings.

After Horowitz's death small record companies released some of his live performances either from broadcasts (e.g. Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov concertos from 1940-1949, published by Music & Arts and APR) or pirate recordings (e.g. the May 1976 recital in Toronto published by Music & Arts, two 1985 recitals from Milan published by Exclusive). The vast majority of Horowitz's live recordings (over 140 public concerts) remain unpublished and is only available to private record collectors. Large record companies have access to a part of this material and have in recent years come up with a limited number of new material releases (RCA CDs with live recordings from 1945-1950 and 1975); yet for unclear reasons most of Horowitz's recording output still remains unavailable to the larger public.

Horowitz's art has often been judged with much prejudice and stereotype. His fame was foremost that of a virtuoso, especially in works by Liszt and Rachmaninov, which uproared the public but were met with cold skepticism by the critique, who reproached Horowitz with bad taste, superficiality and stylistic manipulation (fervent critics included Virgil Thompson, Harvey Sachs, Piero Rattalino, and in some cases also Horowitz's biographer Harold C. Schonberg). Yet the Lisztian super-virtuoso was only one of Horowitz's faces. In fact, his technique and musical education were strongly classical, and works by such composers as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Domenico Scarlatti and Clementi (both of whom owe a lot to Horowitz for being reinstated in the concert repertoire) were always prominent in his programmes; in his last years he made a significant comeback to the music of Mozart and Schubert.

He played little 20th-century music; while he achieved early fame as a performer of Débussy, Poulenc and Ravel, in later years he only played selected works by Prokofiev, Kabalevsky and American composer Samuel Barber. Far more important to Horowitz's emploi were Scriabin and Rachmaninov; he is widely accepted as a key performer of these composers in the 20th century. Other central figures in his repertoire included Romantic authors such as Schumann, Liszt and Chopin. It is in the art of these five latter composers that Horowitz developed his highly individual style, based on a broad, potent (especially in the low register: the famous 'Horowitz bass'), nuanced tone, astounding finger dexterity, powerful dynamic and agogic contrast, and sustained expression.

Another key aspect of Horowitz's art was the meticulous control in his interpretations, far from the stereotyped virtuoso spontaneity that he was attributed. An interpretative strategy typical of Horowitz was also to perform 18th- and early 19th-century works from the perspective of later music; the influence of Scriabin and Rachmaninov is easily felt in some of his interpretations of Chopin, Schumann, Clementi and Scarlatti. In Horowitz's last period the virtuoso traits of his playing became secondary as he became ever more explorative in his refined articulation and sound colour (e.g. use of both pedals in Schubert and Liszt) and novel rendering of form (e.g. treatment of secondary form elements in Chopin, Rachmaninov and Schumann).

Horowitz did almost no teaching: he had only a few private students, never established a school, and his art has no continuation, although echoes can be heard in interpretations of Ivo Pogorelich, Andrei Gavrilov, Byron Janis (Horowitz's student for a short period), and Arcadi Volodos.

The oeuvre of Chopin occupies a central position in Horowitz's art. Yet similarly to other composers, there is no quest for completion in the selection of works Horowitz played or recorded. Official recordings include 3 ballades (with several interpretations of the Ballade in G Minor), 4 scherzos (with particular attention to the B Minor), 15 mazurkas, 9 nocturnes, 6 polonaises (several recordings of the A Flat Major Polonaise Op. 53 and the Polonaise-Fantaise), two versions of the B Minor Sonata. Horowitz rarely performed or recorded etudes, preludes and waltzes; existing sources seem to indicate he never performed either of the concertos (concerto and chamber appearances were marginal in his emploi).

Wojciech Bońkowski

August 2005


Caine Alder, The Recordings of Vladimir Horowitz, „High Fidelity", July 1973.
Caine Alder, The Unknown Recordings of Vladimir Horowitz, „High Fidelity", January 1978.
David Dubal, Evenings with Horowitz, New York 1991.
David Dubal (ed.), Remembering Horowitz, 125 pianists recall a legend, New York 1993.
Joachim Kaiser, Große Pianisten in unserer Zeit, Munich 1972.
Joachim Kaiser, 32 Sonaten Beethovens und seine Interpreten, Munich 1975.
Donald Manildi, Vladimir Horowitz: The Carnegie Hall Recitals 1945-50, „International Piano Quarterly", summer 1998.
Glenn Plaskin, Horowitz. A Biography, New York 1983.
Piero Rattalino, Da Clementi a Pollini, Milan 1982.
Piero Rattalino, Pianisti e fortisti, Milan 1992.
Harvey Sachs, Virtuoso. The Life and Art of Niccolò Paganini, Franz Liszt, Anton Rubinstein, Ignace Jan Paderewski, Fritz Kreisler, Pablo Casals, Wanda Landowska, Vladimir Horowitz, Glenn Gould, London 1982.
Harold C. Schonberg, The Great Pianists, New York 1963.
Harold C. Schonberg, Horowitz. His Life and Music, London 1992.


At the time of writing, the most complete and updated discography is featured on the following website:
Less comprehensive but at times more detailed discographies (including matrix numbers, original LP details etc.):
Jon Samuels, Discography of Horowitz, in: Harold C. Schonberg, Horowitz. His life and music, London 1992, p. 355-405;
Robert McAlear, Discography, in: Glenn Plaskin, Horowitz, New York 1983, p. 503-568;
Caine Alder, The recordings of Vladimir Horowitz, „High Fidelity" July 1973, p. 48-56.

Videography (officially released material only):

Sergei Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto in D Minor Op. 30, with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Zubin Mehta, Deutsche Grammophon 073-218-2 (DVD) 440 073 218-3 GVG (VHS) [studio recording from New York, 24th November 1978, 44']
Horowitz in London, dir. Kirk Browning, Sony (VHS, discontinued), Pioneer Classics PA-82-031 (LD) [live recital recording from the Royal Festival Hall in London, 22nd May 1982, includes interview with Horowitz, 116'. Part of the music material also released on CD RCA 84572]
Horowitz: The Last Romantic, dir. Albert and David Maysles, Pioneer Classic PC-10534D (DVD), Deutsche Grammophon MGM/VA 01085 (VHS) [documentary shot in April 1985 in Horowitz's apartment in New York, 90'. Music material also released on CD Deutsche Grammophon 419045]
Horowitz in Moscow, dir. Brian Large, Pioneer Classics PC-94-021-D (DVD), Sony Classical SHV 64545 (VHS) [live recital recording from the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire, 20th April 1986, includes two interviews with Horowitz, 111'. Part of the music material also released on CD Deutsche Grammophon 419499]
Horowitz plays Mozart, dir. Albert Maysles, Deutsche Grammophon 072 215-2 (DVD) 072 115-3GH (VHS) [studio recording of Mozart's Concerto in A Major KV488 with the La Scala Theatre Orchestra, conductor Carlo Maria Giulini, Abanella studio in Milan, March 1987; includes excerpts of orchestra rehearsal, 51'. Full recording of the concerto released on CD Deutsche Grammophon 423287]
Horowitz in Vienna, dir. Brian Large, Deutsche Grammophon UCBG-1072 (DVD) 072 121-3GH (VHS) [live recital recording from the Musikverein, 31st May 1987, 90'. Part of the music material also released on CD Deutsche Grammophon 435025]
Horowitz: A Reminiscence, reż. Robert Eisenhardt, Sony Classical SHV 53478 (VHS) [documentary including previously unreleased footage shot in Horowitz's apartment in New York in 1974, and excerpts from live recital recordings in London, 22nd May 1982, and Moscow, 20th April 1986, 115']

Vladimir Horowitz in Youtube:
Horowitz Vladimir  Ballade F minor

Recorded on 28th December 1949.


views: 19644
Horowitz Vladimir  Ballade F minor
views: 23129
Horowitz Vladimir  Ballade in G minor,

live recording 1965

views: 278450
Horowitz Vladimir  Ballade in G minor,

Recorded during a television concert at Carnegie Hall.

views: 1866878
Horowitz Vladimir  Ballade in G minor,
views: 20196
Horowitz Vladimir  Ballade in G minor,
views: 27354
Horowitz Vladimir  Ballade in G minor,

Live recording from Cleveland from 1974.


views: 3112
Horowitz Vladimir  Etude in C minor, Op. 25 No. 12

An authenticated reproduction of Horowitz's December 1928 piano roll recording of this etude.

views: 30030
Horowitz Vladimir  Etude in E minor, Op. 25 No. 5


views: 4233
Horowitz Vladimir  Etude in F major, Op. 25 No. 3

Recorded in 1934.

views: 1942
Horowitz Vladimir  Etude in G flat major, Op. 10 No. 5
views: 53877
Horowitz Vladimir  Fantasy-Impromptu

Recorded in 1989

views: 197192
Horowitz Vladimir  Impromptu in A flat major,

Recorded in October 1951

views: 3369
Horowitz Vladimir  Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17 No. 4 + Mazurk a Op. 7, No. 3

Recorded in December 1985, New York City, Carnegie Hall.

views: 1918
Horowitz Vladimir  Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17 No. 4
views: 19346
Horowitz Vladimir  Mazurka in B minor, Op. 33 No. 4

Recorded in Hamburg, Germany on 21st of June 1987. 


views: 2217
Horowitz Vladimir  Mazurka in B minor, Op. 33 No. 4

Recorded in Vien in 1987.


views: 391280
Horowitz Vladimir  Mazurka in C major, Op. 33 No. 2
views: 16417
Horowitz Vladimir  Mazurka in F minor, Op. 63 No. 2 & Rubinstein & Argerich

Comparison of 3 different performances.

views: 6826
Horowitz Vladimir  Nocturne in F minor, Op. 55 No. 1
views: 30306
Horowitz Vladimir  Polonaise-Fantasy in A flat major, Op. 61 part 1

 Recorded in 1974.


views: 7738
Horowitz Vladimir  Polonaise-Fantasy in A flat major, Op. 61 part 2

Recorded in 1974. 


views: 4591
Horowitz Vladimir  Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53
views: 860515
Horowitz Vladimir  Rondo in E flat major,  part 1

Recorded in Cleveland in 1974

views: 1487
Horowitz Vladimir  Rondo in E flat major,  part 2
views: 628
Horowitz Vladimir  Rondo in E flat major,

Recorded in New York in 1974

views: 7296
Horowitz Vladimir  Scherzo in B minor,

Recorded in Boston in 1969.


views: 2977
Horowitz Vladimir  Scherzo in E major, Op. 54

Recorded in 1936. 

views: 5446
Horowitz Vladimir  Sonata in B flat minor,

Recorded during the performance in White House.

views: 660103

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