"On April 20, 1986, the wheel came full circle for Vladimir Horowitz with an audible click, and he recognized it as such." So begins this definitive biography of the most electrifying piano virtuoso of our times, Vladimir Horowitz, describing his return to Russia after a sixty-one-year absence. From there, the book turns back to Horowitz's privileged and pampered childhood in Kiev, where he started to play the piano at the age of five. We then follow him through his tempestuous years at the Kiev Conservatory, which he entered before he was
"On April 20, 1986, the wheel came full circle for Vladimir Horowitz with an audible click, and he recognized it as such." So begins this definitive biography of the most electrifying piano virtuoso of our times, Vladimir Horowitz, describing his return to Russia after a sixty-one-year absence. From there, the book turns back to Horowitz's privileged and pampered childhood in Kiev, where he started to play the piano at the age of five. We then follow him through his tempestuous years at the Kiev Conservatory, which he entered before he was thirteen and where he was immediately at odds with all of his professors. He was already an individualist. We trace his development as an artist and his defection to Berlin in the turbulent aftermath of the Russian Revolution. We see him in Berlin and Paris, metamorphosed from a provincial to a colossus of the European stage. After his American debut in 1928 he becomes an awe-inspiring figure who is envied by musicians all over the world, exhibiting a kind of high-voltage playing that paralyzed audiences. Yet there was another side to him. There were times when he was invaded by demons, tortured by self-doubts. Author Harold C. Schonberg charts not only the course of Horowitz's many triumphs but also his mysterious withdrawals from the stage and other troubling aspects of the great pianist's life. This full portrait of Horowitz's life and music benefits particularly from hitherto unpublished anecdotes and information that derive from a series of taped interviews the author conducted with Horowitz toward the end of his life. Here is Horowitz the man, the musician, the icon, and even the raconteur. Through Schonberg's assessment of the special kind of genius that Horowitz brought to the piano and of his position among the other keyboard giants of his time, this biography is a panorama that takes in a good part of this century's piano world.
For former New York Times music critic Schonberg, romantic pianist Vladimir Horowitz (1904-1989) was this century's ``most potent and electrifying virtuoso,'' and also a neurotic genius. The temperamental recitalist went through six years of depression and self-loathing beginning in 1932, the year he married Wanda Toscanini, daughter of the famed conductor. Wanda, described here as bitchy and abusive but also fiercely protective, frequently fought with her husband. A hypochrondriac, Horowitz went to spas for imaginary ailments and had an unnecessary appendectomy. His retirement during the years 1953-1965 was prompted, according to Schonberg, by a search for identity and a belief that he had become a flashy showman. Horowitz's sexual preference for men is mentioned in passing. His emotionally disturbed daughter Sonia died in 1975 from an overdose of sleeping pills, feeling rejected by her uncaring father. Filled with wonderful anecdotes, this intimate biography reveals the positive and negative points of Horowitz's personal life, character and playing style. The book, based in part on interviews with Horowtiz taped in 1987, also includes a discography. Photos. Music Book Society main selection. (Nov.)
Schonberg, a former senior music critic of the New York Times, has written a straightforward account of the great pianist's musical progression through life. He includes many quotes and comments from Horowitz himself and his wife. There is, however, too much detail on performances, too many critics' opinions, and too little insight into the man. For instance, a comment on Horowitz's presumed sexual preference at the time of his marriage is never followed up. The reader is left to wonder whether the matter is connected with the subject's subsequent years of psychiatric treatment. There is also a sense that the man himself is not of much interest outside his musical genius. The book is written in newspaper style, with short sentences and occasional breezy comments or slang words, and snappy phrases like ``Berlin . . . was a sad, bad, glad, mad city.'' For comprehensive music collections only. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/92.--Philippa Kiraly, Seattle