Saturday, December 7, 2013

Vladimir Horowitz and the Star Spangled Banner...

For those of you who may not know of the recital that the legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz gave at the White House in 1978, you may find the event quite defining.
And for those of you who are indeed aware of this event, do you still recall the significance of his playing of the American national anthem before the program began?
You can acquire the video of this recital, or watch  the pianist play the Star Spangled Banner on YouTube.
At any rate, my reason for writing about his playing of the anthem is due to the powerful connection that Horowitz had with this music.
First of all, do be reminded that  President Carter invited the maestro to play at the White House to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the American debut of Horowitz; an event so sensational that shortly thereafter the esteemed music critic, Olin Downes wrote of  Horowitz, as "the greatest pianist, alive or dead."
Horowitz, as you may know, first established his position as an artist  of importance in Europe, before coming to America. His rather harrowing escape from the tyranny of his native Mother Russia, with "money hidden in my socks'" as he put it, was an experience he never let go of, especially as he began to absorb the reality of what Freedom held for him, and the subsequent love he held for the new culture he now was part of. Horowitz attained American citizenship, and on many occasions spoke of the greatness of his newly acquired  home. His vaunted performance of the Tchaikovsky piano concerto, with his father-in-law Arturo Toscanini on "I Am An American" day  during the middle of World War II is an example of the attachment that had been formed, spiritually, between him and America. Listen to the performance, and you will feel the electric form of his newly found nationalism, let alone great talents.
Which brings me around to his playing of the anthem at the White House - do watch his performance, and you will quickly develop a sense of the depth of spirit that Horowitz gives in his connection to the music; music bare of any competition with the Chopin that is to follow.
Horowitz played the anthem before almost all of the  recitals he gave in America during the World War II  period. As a child, I recall hearing him play it several times, whenever he came to our city. And as young as I was, I distinctly recall that it had a different meaning than the way we sang it in school - what the difference was, I could never have explained, as I was too young to understand the momentous events surrounding us at that time.
At any rate, do watch Horowitz play the American National Anthem - it may just pull you into his orbit of the feelings he was undergoing during those times, a generation before during the world conflict.



Blogger Peter Vinton said...


December 15, 2013 at 3:51 PM  

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