Horowitz was born in Kiev, Russia on 1 October, 1903. His father was an engineer,
his mother a musician with whom he began to study the piano at age six. At fifteen
he entered the music conservatory in his native city, studying with Felix Blumenfeld.
He graduated in two years with honors and began to perform; his debut in the
neighboring town of Kharkov was enthusiastically received. After additional
concerts there and some in Kiev, he went on to triumph in Moscow and Leningrad.
Thus began one of the most spectacular musical careers of this century. In the
1924-25 season, at the age of 21, he gave 70 concerts, 23 in Leningrad alone,
all to capacity audiences.
Horowitz felt that without the Russian revolution, he would never have become a virtuoso. In the fall of 1925, he used his own money and invested it in a desperate grasp for success outside Russia. He played concerts in Berlin, Hamburg and Paris. News of his phenomenal playing spread quickly. In Paris, the American concert manager Arthur Judson heard him and signed him for a tour of the United States, which took place in 1928. Horowitz used the opportunity to escape the revolution, though he never saw his family again.
His American debut took place on 12 January 1928, at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Sir Thomas Beecham, who was also making his American debut. "It has been years," wrote Olin Downes in The New York Times, "since a pianist created such furor with an audience in this city." And that was in the days of Paderewski, Hofmann and Rachmaninoff.
In 1933 he gave his first solo performances with Arturo Toscanini, who chose Horowitz to play the Emperor Concerto in a Beethoven cycle with the New York Philharmonic. During preparations for the concert the pianist met Toscanini's daughter Wanda, and that December they were married in Milan.
Vladimir Horowitz settled in New York in 1940. He became an American citizen in 1942, and helped raise millions of dollars for the War Bond effort through benefit performances; one of them generated $11,000,000 for the allied forces. In 1953 he retired from the concert stage, and for the next 12 years he did not perform, choosing instead to help a few promising young artists. He also made occasional recordings and pursued several research projects, including an investigation of the music of Muzio Clementi which would later be recorded by RCA.
On 9 May 1965 he returned to the concert platform in a now-legendary recital at Carnegie Hall. It was the first in a succession of triumphant appearances he made not only in New York, but in Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., Cleveland and other cities. His art was brought to millions via a television special entitled "Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall". His historic return to Russia in 1986 brought worldwide attention.