Vladimir Horowitz's brilliant technique and emotional profundity led many to consider him the 20th century's greatest pianist.
Born in Kiev, Russia, on Oct. 1, 1904, Horowitz was the youngest of four children of Simeon and Sophie Horowitz, whose first house was fortuitously located on Music Street.
At age 12, he was sent to high school as well as the Kiev Music Conservatory, where he studied composition and piano under Felix Blumenfeld, who had studied under Anton Rubinstein.
Horowitz initially wanted to be a composer, learning the repertoire of all instruments and memorizing operas. He wrote for voice and piano and was deep in his studies when the Bolshevik Revolution convulsed Russia in 1917.
The revolution — which cost his parents their home — was the "accident" that made him a concert pianist.
He gave a series of concerts in Khartov in 1922 to earn money to support his family. This led to a tour of the Soviet Union in 1924, and a year later he was allowed to leave the country to "study" abroad.
His first recitals were in Berlin, and word of his talent spread quickly throughout Europe. He played for royalty in a triumphant tour of European capitals and left audiences gasping for new adjectives in nearly every major European concert hall.
He came to the U.S. in 1928 and appeared with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Sir Thomas Beecham, who was also making his U.S. debut.
In 1933, Horowitz met Arturo Toscanini, who was then leading the New York Philharmonic in a cycle of Beethoven concerts. The maestro Toscanini chose Horowitz as soloist for the Emperor Concerto. Horowitz chose Toscanini's daughter, Wanda, as his wife.
For more than 50 years, Horowitz's records were bestsellers, and he won a score of Grammy awards for best classical recordings.
Especially noted for his dynamic interpretations of such composers as Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Chopin, Horowitz's fees for a performance — as much as 80% of the gross — were a tribute to his genius.
He won Grammy awards in 1962, '63, '64 and '65, making him the first classical performer ever to be so honored in four consecutive years.