Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
The former senior music critic for The New York Times details the career of legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz (1902-89), who has been the subject of a previous biography (Glenn Plaskin's Horowitz, 1983) as well as of a volume of personal memoirs (David Dubal's Evenings with Horowitz, 1991--not reviewed). Starting with Horowitz's triumphant return to Russia in 1986, Schonberg (The Glorious Ones, 1985, etc.) chronicles the life and music-making of this ``neurotic genius,'' drawing extensively on interviews with Horowitz and his associates. The author establishes appropriate historical and cultural contexts: Horowitz's youth during the Russian Revolution; the start of his European career in mid-1920's Berlin (which Schonberg calls ``a sad, bad, glad, mad city''); and his pianism as compared to that of the 19th-century romantics like Liszt and Anton Rubinstein, as well as to that of his contemporaries. Schonberg also considers changing musical tastes as reflected in varying critical perceptions of Horowitz's style during his lengthy career. Periodically, the author corroborates or disagrees with others' assessments--an intrusion, sometimes, in the text proper, but an asset in the three musicological appendices that preface an extensive Horowitz discography. Schonberg offers insight into the mutually dependent relationship between Horowitz and his wife, Wanda (Arturo Toscanini's daughter), but tends to apologize when accounting for Horowitz's four hiatuses from the concert stage. The author also tempers his subject's opinions on other musicians (e.g., Arthur Rubinstein) by choosing his quotes with kindness. Discussions of Horowitz's peculiar piano techniques (playing with flat instead of rounded fingers, for example) will interest piano devotees, although frequent documentation of individual concert programs proves cumbersome. Reasonably evenhanded, and useful in demythologizing Horowitz's career, but doing little to humanize ``the most potent and electrifying virtuoso of the twentieth century.'' (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)
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