Vladimir Horowitz, the devil of the piano
"Horowitz was attracted to a very different work by Rachmaninoff: the formidable Third Piano Concerto – one of the most difficult musical works ever written. And Rachmaninoff had received word from virtuoso violinist Fritz Kreisler that “some young Russian plays [his] Third Concerto and the Tchaikovsky Concerto like nothing I ever heard, and you have to meet him.” So, the very next day after arriving in New York, Horowitz received an invitation from Rachmaninoff to visit him in his apartment.
The two wasted no time in becoming musical acquaintances. Rachmaninoff played Medtner’s Fairy Tale in E Minor for Horowitz. Then the two decided that if Horowitz was going to perform Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, perhaps the composer should give him some pointers. Off they went to Steinway Hall. Rachmaninoff played the orchestra part on one Steinway piano, while Horowitz played the solo part on another.
Rachmaninoff was genuinely impressed. “He swallowed it whole,” stated the composer. “He had the courage, the intensity, and daring that make for greatness.”
The Rachmaninoff concerto became Horowitz’s trademark. His New York performance of the work, with the Philharmonic Orchestra, was broadcast over the radio. In fact, Horowitz made three recordings of it – “The first one I don’t count,” he confessed to Dubal. “It was on 78s, with Albert Coates conducting. They gave me only one hour and [a] half, and I couldn’t do what I wanted in such a short time.” Nevertheless, that recording remains a favorite many pianophiles.
The two musical giants remained friends for the rest of their lives. Horowitz case to be known as the pianist who “owned” the difficult Third Piano Concerto. And it all began in the basement of New York’s Steinway Hall."