The 10 Greatest Pianists of All Time

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2. Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989)

Who was he? A Russian-born pianist who left for the West at age 21, where he was described as a “tornado unleashed from the steppes”. Most famous for his performances of Romantic piano repertoire and, surprisingly, Scarlatti, he returned to Russia for a triumphant farewell recital in 1986.

What makes him great? Sparkling virtuosity and extraordinary use of tone colour, combined with a talent for thrilling his audience, creating
a furore at his live recitals.

Ingolf Wunder on the godlike gifts of Horowitz

“Horowitz combined high-class pianism with a unique taste in music and interpretation. What made him unique was his ability to chisel his feelings and moods out of the structures and harmonic material of the score. I think I first heard Horowitz when I was 14. I was just astonished by his tone and the variety of colours he could produce. And he always played as his hand was built, never betraying his taste and his view of music. He was always himself, and everything he touched became his own. His playing is never mediocre, it either works or it doesn’t. But if it does work, it’s simply god-like – incomparable with anything you’ve ever heard. 

"In a way, Horowitz is the product of a time that produced so many great pianists. I believe the way of thinking and our life has changed since then. Now musicians can go on the Internet and hear almost every recording of any piece; back then they were forced to think for themselves. Small things were given greater importance because it wasn’t possible to go anywhere instantly. It was not necessarily about who can play the fastest or any other competitive aspect, it was more about the music. There are still a few musicians that are like Horowitz and those old greats, and that’s the school we ought to come back to.” 

Also chosen by: Freddy Kempf, Gerard Willems, Konstantin Scherbakov…

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The 10 Greatest Pianists of All Time
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