Vladimir Horowitz is known as “the Master of Octaves”. The Russian pianist who died in 2002 was admired by many generations of pianists for his dazzling performances. His virtuosity may have caught listeners’ eyes, but it is his mastery of the piano that makes his playing so impressive.
He was a pianist who received instruction from his mother. Later, he studied with Felix Blumenfeld and Vladimir Puchalsky. In 1912, he entered Kiev Conservatory. During his studies, he honed his technique, which he used in his performances.
By 1928, Horowitz had recorded for the Victor Talking Machine Company. Throughout his career, he continued to make solo piano recordings for HMV and RCA Victor.
His performances were well-received by concert audiences. However, critics were less enthusiastic. Among the criticisms he received were claims that he had a poor technique and that his interpretations were unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, the composers he performed with were pleased with his work. One of them, Sergei Rachmaninoff, referred to him as a great artist.
When Horowitz returned to Russia after 61 years, he was invited to play in the East Room of the White House, which was attended by President Jimmy Carter. The performance was also broadcast internationally. A live recording of this performance was released on the LP, Horowitz in Moscow. It topped the Billboard Classical music charts for over a year.
After the end of World War II, Horowitz became a US citizen. His performances were praised by living composers, including Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff and Poulenc. Some of his piano compositions, such as his Second Hungarian Rhapsody, are transcribed by other pianists.
As a performer, Horowitz was considered by younger generations of pianists to be the “over-God” of the piano. This characterization was based on his ability to create dazzling effects by playing without pedals. Though he was unable to achieve the same success with his pedals, he was able to perform chords and leaps with accuracy.
He performed for President Hoover in 1931 and later played for President Reagan. Before his death in 2002, he received an invitation to play in the Soviet Union.
Generations of pianists
His performance of Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto was praised by Rachmaninoff. Many younger generations of pianists have attributed his virtuosity to his ability to play octaves with excitement.
His performances were often considered politically charged. Several critics have compared his performances to that of LaRouchite Nazi collaborators. For example, in a review of his last book, Media Matters found several falsehoods. Interestingly, he did not oppose changing the text of a composition.
Despite his political views, Horowitz has had some endorsements from gubernatorial candidates Warren Tolman and Marjorie Decker. The Youth Action Coalition has also endorsed him. Other endorsements include Martha Argerich, Maurizio Pollini and the Cambridge Civic Association.
He has also been endorsed by members of the Democratic Party. While he cannot compete with the political power of candidates like Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, he hopes to be a new voice in the council.