Preface to "Horowitz: His Life and Music," a...


November 25, 1992

IN THE preface to "Horowitz: His Life and Music," a masterful new biography of pianist Vladimir Horowitz by former New York Times critic Harold C. Schonberg, the author briefly discusses some gossipy exchanges he and the maestro shared regarding other pianists. Apparently Horowitz wasn't much impressed by his competition:

"He did not think too highly of the culture and general musicianship of the pianists he heard," recalled Mr. Schonberg. Horowitz' judgment of his fellow artists could be devastating. "Vladimir Ashkenazy? 'Ashkenazy was good once. Not now.' Glenn Gould? 'I heard a recording of the Wagner Siegfried Idyll played by Glenn Gould. It was his arrangement. He played like a stupid ass. The tempi were all wrong. He was not normal.' "

"The great Josef Hoffmann? 'A very good pianist but a second-rate musician.' The legendary Solomon? 'Boring.' The equally legendary Arturo Beneditti Michelangeli? Here Horowitz expressed admiration with a qualification: 'Interesting pianist, but I think he is just a little bit meshuga [nuts].' Andre Watts? 'Technically formidable, fantastic fingers, musically horrible.'

"The new Russian school? 'Of the Russian pianists I like only one, [Sviatoslav] Richter. [Emil] Gilels did some things well, but I did not like his mannerisms, the way he moved around while he was playing.' Claudio Arrau? 'I heard his Emperor and it was terrible. He plays so slow, ugh. Also the Waldstein. So slow.' " Schonberg's account leaves no doubt that Horowitz was a great artist, a perfectionist -- and a very difficult man to please.

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