The Electrifying Fingers at the Piano of Vladimir Horowitz
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Vladimir Horowitz quotes:
My face is my passport.
I was a terrible student. For me, to take a book home was a trial.
For me, the intellect is always the guide but not the goal of the performance. Three things have to be coordinated, and not one must stick out. Not too much intellect because it can become scholastic. Not too much heart because it can become schmaltz. Not too much technique because you become a mechanic.
I may play the same program from one recital to the next, but I will play it differently, and because it is always different, it is always new.
Without false modesty, I feel that, when I'm on the stage, I'm the king, the boss of the situation.
To be able to produce many varieties of sound, now that is what I call technique, and that is what I try to do. I don't adhere to any methods, because I simply don't believe in them. I think each pianist must ultimately carve his own way, technically and stylistically.
I must tell you I take terrible risks. Because my playing is very clear when I make a mistake you hear it. If you want me to play only the notes without any specific dynamics, I will never make one mistake. Never be afraid to dare.
Behind the notes, something different is told, and that's what the interpreter must find out. He may sit down and play one passage one way and then perhaps exaggerate the next, but, in any event, he must do something with the music. The worst thing is not to do anything.
The score is not a bible, and I am never afraid to dare. The music is behind those dots.
I tried playing for the public, and I selected music that I thought would be pleasing to them. Times are different now. Today, I play the music I want, and I just try to do my best.
Scriabin, as you know, is a mystic composer. His music is supersensuous, superromantic, and super mysterious. Everything is super; it is all a little overboard. Anyway, my parents were pleased that I played for him.
Scriabin slept with Chopin under his pillow, and I slept with Wagner under mine. I could not concentrate on memorizing Bach fugues, but I had all of 'Gotterdammerung' in my fingers.
The most important thing is to make a percussive instrument a singing instrument. Teachers should stress this aspect in their instruction, but it seems that very few of them actually do.
1980 - I have no desire to return. I don’t like the Russian approach to music, to art, to anything. I lost all my family there. I never want to go back, and I never will.
Horowitz was announced at his arrival in New York in 1928 as: ”The Tornado of the Steppes, a superhuman combination of Rosenthal, Paderewski, Busoni, Rachmaninov, and Hofmann.”
Wanda Toscanini tells when she met Vladimir for the first time after his Milan concert conducted by her father Arturo Toscanini: ”Already, I knew he was the best. I fell in love with Volodya’s pedaling.”
My father-in-law was the law. He was more difficult than me.
Question to Toscanini: ”If Rachmaninoff is not a good composer, isn’t he at least the greatest pianist today?” The Maestro replied vehemently, ”He? Never in the world! It’s Volodya who is the greatest because what he can do is superhuman!”
Nothing is ever conquered. The piano is the easiest instrument to play in the beginning and the hardest to master in the end.
I saw Barenboim and I said to him, ’Why are you conducting? You are a pianist. A true pianist, a real pianist must play the piano. He must not divide himself.’
Pianists need to know how to feel about tempo. For the singer, for the violin, for the orchestra, it’s the same thing. You have to establish the tempo, and then you can do what you want. As Chopin and Mozart said, the left hand is your conductor, the right hand is the solo, then there is rubato. Rubato, you know, is robbing the time, making it faster here and slower there.
I was always a good improviser. You know, I’m at heart a composer, so I do it naturally. Some of my improvisations are tremendous, some are very poor.
You see, a pianist can be a good American when he plays Barber, a good Pole when he plays Chopin, a good Russian with Tchaikovsky, a good Frenchman with Debussy, or a good German with Beethoven. A pianist is a citizen of the world. And that is the most important thing to be.
The thing is to become a master and in your old age acquire the courage to do what children did when they knew nothing.
When I was a teenager, my life was sports. I dearly loved playing baseball, and I was a darn good hitter.
”Rachmaninov is a giant redwood. I’m only a tree, a big one or little one, I don’t know.” What about Liszt? ”Liszt is so high that we can’t even see the top. It’ll still take years for us to fully understand his importance in music.”
Piano playing consists of common sense, heart, and technical resources. All three should be equally developed. Without common sense, you are a fiasco, without technique an amateur, without heart a machine. The profession does have its hazards.
I must tell you, Chopin’s etudes are impossible on the modern piano. Chopin would have changed a lot of things if he have a Steinway. Of that, I’m sure, oh yes! You can’t play them well if you follow Chopin’s metronome markings. They are too fast. They are all terrible. The double-note etudes are difficult, especially Op. 25 no. 6. Everyone tries to show off the speed of their thirds, but the beauty of the piece is in the left hand. Of course, the thirds have to be played very nice, very evenly. For me, the most difficult of all is the C Major, the first one, Op. 10 no. 1. I cannot do that, and I can’t do the other C major, Op. 10 no. 7. Also, I can’t do the A Minor, Op. 10 no. 2.
You know, composers often are cruel. What they ask of us to do should be forbidden. The public, who knows nothing of what is required, knows nothing of the hell of work required. The tears. I’ve torn out many pieces of hair when I was young. The most important thing is to work hard.
But tell me, Mr. Horowitz, did you ever feel like a prisoner of the piano, a slave to it? ”Oh, sure, many times. These are times of despair. But the piano always brings me back. It calls me.”
Every piece is difficult. The more you know, the more difficult it gets. So every piece is difficult.