Cimitero Monumentale di Milano Milan, Città Metropolitana di Milano, Lombardia, Italy, Plot In the crypt of his father-in-law, Arturo Toscanini
Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz (October 1 [O.S. September 18] 1903 – November 5, 1989) was a Russian-born American classical pianist and composer. He was acclaimed for his virtuoso technique, his tone color, and the excitement engendered by his playing. He is recognized as one of the greatest pianists of all time.
In 1933, in a civil ceremony, Horowitz married Arturo Toscanini's daughter Wanda. Although Horowitz was Jewish and Wanda Catholic, this was not an issue, as neither was observant. As Wanda knew no Russian and Horowitz knew very little Italian, their primary language became French. They had one child, Sonia Toscanini Horowitz (1934–1975). It has never been determined whether her death in Geneva, from a drug overdose, was accidental or a suicide.
Despite his marriage, there were persistent rumors of Horowitz's homosexuality. Arthur Rubinstein said of Horowitz that "Everyone knew and accepted him as a homosexual." David Dubal wrote that in his years with Horowitz, there was no evidence that the octogenarian was sexually active, but that "there was no doubt he was powerfully attracted to the male body and was most likely often sexually frustrated throughout his life." Dubal observed that Horowitz sublimated a strong instinctual sexuality into a powerful erotic undercurrent which was communicated in his piano playing. Horowitz, who denied being homosexual, once joked, "There are three kinds of pianists: Jewish pianists, homosexual pianists, and bad pianists."
In an article in The New York Times in September 2013, Kenneth Leedom, an assistant of Horowitz for five years before 1955, laid claim to having been in a closeted relationship with him as his lover, saying, "We had a wonderful life together...He was a difficult man, to say the least. He had an anger in him that was unbelievable. The number of meals I've had thrown on the floor or in my lap. He'd pick up the tablecloth and just pull it off the table, and all the food would go flying. He had tantrums, a lot. But then he was calm and sweet. Very sweet, very lovable. And he really adored me."
In the 1940s, Horowitz began seeing a psychiatrist. According to sources, this was an attempt to alter his sexual orientation. In the 1960s and again in the 1970s, the pianist underwent electroshock treatment for depression.
In 1982, Horowitz began using prescribed anti-depressant medications; there are reports that he was drinking alcohol as well. Consequently, his playing underwent a perceptible decline during this period. The pianist's 1983 performances in the United States and Japan were marred by memory lapses and a loss of physical control. (At the latter, one Japanese critic likened Horowitz to a "precious antique vase that is cracked.") He stopped playing in public for the next two years.
By 1985, Horowitz, no longer taking medication or drinking alcohol, returned to performing and recording and was back on form. His first post-retirement appearance was not on stage, but in the documentary film Vladimir Horowitz: The Last Romantic. In many of his later performances, the octogenarian pianist substituted finesse and coloration for bravura, although he was still capable of remarkable technical feats. Many critics, including Harold C. Schonberg and Richard Dyer, felt that his post-1985 performances and recordings were the best of his later years.
In 1986, Horowitz announced that he would return to the Soviet Union for the first time since 1925 to give recitals in Moscow and Leningrad. In the new atmosphere of communication and understanding between the USSR and the USA, these concerts were seen as events of political, as well as musical, significance. Most of the tickets for the Moscow concert were reserved for the Soviet elite and few sold to the general public. This resulted in a number of Moscow Conservatory students crashing the concert, which was audible to viewers of the internationally televised recital. The Moscow concert was released on a compact disc entitled Horowitz in Moscow, which reigned at the top of Billboard's Classical music charts for over a year. It was also released on VHS and, eventually, DVD. The concert was also widely seen on a Special Edition of CBS News Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt, reporting from Moscow.
Following the Russian concerts, Horowitz toured several European cities including Berlin, Amsterdam, and London. In June, Horowitz redeemed himself to the Japanese with a trio of well received performances in Tokyo. Later that year, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States, by President Ronald Reagan.
Horowitz's final tour took place in Europe in the spring of 1987. A video recording of his penultimate public recital, Horowitz in Vienna, was released in 1991. His final recital, at the Musikhalle Hamburg, Germany, took place on June 21, 1987. The concert was recorded but not released until 2008. He continued to record for the remainder of his life.
Vladimir Horowitz died on November 5, 1989 in New York City of a heart attack, aged 86. He was buried in the Toscanini family tomb in the Cimitero Monumentale, Milan, Italy.