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Vladimir Horowitz, seen and heard by Denise Tual
in Paris - 1926
Denise Tual (1906-2000), film editor, wife of film producer Roland Tual, in her autobiography Le temps dévoré
(Time devoured) wrote about her encounter with Vladimir Horowitz.
She was twenty in 1926; the pianist was three years older. Here is what she says; the last paragraph of this page is extraordinarily moving and profound.
"Francesco Mendelssohn had been the first German to come to Paris in 1919, he was welcomed by my mother at the very end of the war. Heir of bankers from Berlin, grand-son of the great composer, he was himself
a musician, a cellist, a student of Pablo Casals, with whom he travelled all around the world.
He had arrived a few days ago with friends and among them a pianist, too poor to rent an instrument; he was looking for someone who had a good
piano at home and could allow him to practice a few hours daily.
Even without knowing his name, I mentioned my Bechstein, and gave him an appointment the day after, in the morning.
It happened to be the day of the florist who came, three times a week, to renew a bunch of flowers
with another. When the bell rang, his work stayed unfinished; the vases, the water jugs, flowers were everywhere on the floor. The door of the salon opened. Francesco, who was very short-sighted, always moved in a hurry; he hurried toward me, hit
the kneeling florist, the vases tumbled, water flooded the floor ...
It was amid all this confusion that he introduced to me his young friend from Russia, who seemed to me frail, gaunt and sad: "Wladimir Horowitz".
With them was another young man, staying
a little aside. I recognized at once Ramon Novaro, who had just just taken the place of Rudolph Valentino in the hearts and on the screens of Hollywood. "Ben Hur"
himself stood in front of me.
young man was eager to try the piano.
The many objects obstructing the lid
were quickly removed and he stroked a chord. The sound of the instrument was very beautiful but out of tune, about half a tone below. Then he looked at me and his eyes became tender and charming. I promised to have the piano tuned the same day.
Wladimir Horowitz would come to practice everyday.
He thanked me with a lot of hand kisses. I heard a long "merrrrci" said with a white voice.
I was still deep inside my bed when the first arpeggio and scales came to my ear. I was aghast. I got up and cuddled into a sofa which I pushed
very near the door.
What I was listening
to was fantastic! A mystic presence dwelled inside him. and this airy piano touch was not from this world.
Wolodia had no fixed hours. He swallowed the music, but also the plates of cold meat and the sandwiches I brought
him myself … And after being comforted, he resumed his practice till evening.
I had given orders not to disturb him.
The apartment seemed to vanish under a thin layer of dust, but I was living in ecstasy.
Following with passion his attempts again and again to improve still further, day after day, his technical refinements,
I was taking part in his interpretation, this work very difficult to explain which was
coming from inside, and I held my breath, while he withdrew himself in silence before a new discovery.
I was conscious to be listening an
exceptional artist, and probably the greatest pianist of the time."
(excerpt from "Time devoured", Fayard, 1984, p. 46 my own translation)