Neville Cardus, an astute music critic, at one point of time stated that Vladimir Horowitz was the best pianist ever before retracting his statement. The reason he retracted his statement was because there were many other pianists who have yet to be born yet. Just a few years back, BBC Music also did a survey with other critics to find out who was the best pianist they had ever heard. Vladimir only managed to come in third after Sergei Rachmaninoff and Arthur Rubinstein.
The sad thing is that whenever a gifted individual makes a name for himself/herself, others would be quick to condemn on their flaws. Norman Lebrecht, another music critic, admitted that Vladimir was probably the best pianist of the 20th century. However, he went on to add that he was also “certifiably insane” due to his depression. Sviatoslav Richter, another great pianist described Vladimir as “Great pianist, trivial mind”. As for Arthur Rubinstein who conceded that Vladimir was “by far the better pianist”, he went on to say that he was “not a musician”. In fact, he also felt that Vladimir looked pass him and didn’t consider him to be his equal.
Vladimir, who was borned in Russia, made his debut in Berlin in 1926. He was actually a last minute substitute for another pianist. The conductor at that time was Eugen Pabst, who treated the unknown Vladimir contemptuously. According to Vladimir, that was also the time when he got his big break. After the concerto’s orchestra opening, Horowitz broke loose and play fortissimo. This caught Eugen’s attention enough for him to jump off from the podium and race over to take a look at Vladimir’s incredible hands on the piano. What he saw simply left him in disbelief. “When it was all over, the piano lay on the platform like a slain dragon and the whole house rose as one, screaming hysterically. Pabst grabbed his soloist and hugged him repeatedly, while the audience tore the place apart.”
A couple of years after that, Vladimir made his debut in Carnegie Hall. Alongside him was Sir Thomas Beecham, who was also making his debut. Even though Sir Thomas, the conductor, conducted the orchestra extremely slowly, Vladimir was eventually presented with an opportunity. During the last moment, he managed to break loose once again and impressed many critics. From that day onward, all of his concerts managed to draw in significant crowds. For more of the story, do check it out here.