Vladimir Horowitz was a Ukrainian virtuosi pianist and composer. Perhaps the most high-profile musical emigré from the Soviet Union to the United States, he is known as one of the finest interpreters of the Romantic era and of 20th century Russian composers.
Horowitz was born in Kiev, Ukraine, into a comfortable and cultured household. His mother began teaching him piano along with his older sister Regina, but it was Vladimir who quickly began to demonstrate a prodigious talent. Enrolled at the Kiev Conservatory from the age of nine, Horowitz studied piano with numerous luminaries including Vladimir Puchalsky, Sergei Tarnowsky and Felix Blumenfeld. For his 1919 graduation concert, he performed Rachmaninov’s Piano Concert No. 3 in D minor, a work which for many is still synonymous with the name Horowitz, as he has continued to perform it throughout his career and became the first pianist to record it in 1930.
The year after he graduated, Horowitz had already begun a busy concert career, playing over 100 concerts throughout Russia. Many times he was paid in food or clothing for his performances, as the impoverished Russian populace could afford little else. His own family’s wealth had also declined following the Revolution, and it soon became clear to Horowitz that he would have to leave Russia to achieve his musical goals, not to mention his personal freedom.