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Volodya Again

The stores are still vending the recordings of Vladimir Horowitz, the imposing pianist whose career is now as lucrative as it was during his lifetime. Nearly all of his work is out on compact disc, from sources dating back to the 1920's. Merit and celebrity coincide in this case, as they sometimes do—and when they do, we would like to understand why. That means it's time to hit the books.

This second biography of Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) barely mentions the existence of the first one—Glenn Plaskin's effort of a decade ago. And I suppose that is just as well, since Plaskin's book kept regressing to the Kitty Kelley mode and the tone of an expose. Plaskin's book was spoiled by what still seems to be unresolved anger and an exploitative agenda. Certainly, no one can make such criticisms of Schonberg's study, which has a couple of advantages in addition to the obvious absence of malice.

One of these advantages is ten additional years of perspective. In that time, Horowitz kept appearing and recording and even returned to Russia in a move that rounded off his life and actually had something to do with global politics. Schonberg's view of Horowitz is more comprehensive and more comprehending for that reason, and for others. Another advantage is the author's lifetime of devotion to music and performance, and especially to the piano. Harold C. Schonberg has been leading his own "Romantic...

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