Mieczyslaw Horszowski; Pianist Active Into His 90s

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Mieczyslaw Horszowski, a Polish-born pianist who played with conductor Arturo Toscanini and made numerous recordings with cellist Pablo Casals, has died at age 100.

Horszowski died at home Saturday night of old age, said his wife of 12 years, Bice Horszowski. He would have been 101 Sunday.

Active until recently, Horszowski performed primarily on the East Coast. He gave his last West Coast concert at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Jan. 31, 1990, when Los Angeles Times music critic Martin Bernheimer saluting him as "a pianist's pianist."

"He never courted a mass audience," Bernheimer wrote of the little-known master. "Flash and fuss were never his specialties. For him, the music came first.

"While other keyboard heroes zealously cranked public-relations machines, Horszowski went about his more serious business with gentle, almost selfless determination. While his rivals embarked on vast international tours--and on ego trips that reached even farther--Horszowski concentrated on basics."

Horszowski (his name was pronounced Mee'-cheh-slav Hor-shahv'-sky ) joined Philadelphia's prestigious Curtis Institute as a teacher in 1942, and counted Peter Serkin, Ruth Laredo and Eugene Istomin among his students.

Horszowski made his debut at age 9 in Warsaw, playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1. The piece remained one of his favorites.

"It's a wonderful work," he said a year ago. "I wouldn't change one pulse."

At 14, Horszowski performed for Pope Pius X. In 1940, he played for Pope Pius XII, with composer Maurice Ravel and conductor Charles Munch.

Horszowski was born in Lvov, Poland, now in the Ukraine, and first studied classical piano with his mother. He studied at the Lvov Conservatory before going to Vienna to study with Theodor Leschetizky.

Casals, the Spanish cellist, and Horszowski maintained a long musical friendship, and the two often recorded together. Horszowski had said he loved Casals' musical expression--"his fidelity to the text."

Horszowski never officially retired, but since 1990 had canceled some concerts because of poor health, Curtis spokeswoman Ann E. Diebold said.

His last public appearance was April 23, 1990, at Carnegie Hall in New York. The performance was recorded on laser disc, to capture the aural and visual aspects of his style.

Horszowski said that he preferred composers' scores. "That's the most important. There, you see every note of the immortal works," he said.

Horszowski married for the first time when he was 89, to a 49-year-old former concert pianist, telling an interviewer: "It only goes to prove that there is no such thing as a confirmed bachelor."

The pianist and teacher told The Times in 1990 that he had made a decision when he was 75 never to write his memoirs.

"I am pleased with the things I forget," he said, "for I would like to keep my mind open and fresh for new impressions."

A memorial service will be held Thursday morning at St. Patrick's Church in Philadelphia. He will be buried in France beside his parents.

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