Actor Billy Crystal took to the Grammys 2023 stage to present a pair of honorary awards to Motown legends Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy. Before presenting the award, he spoke about his childhood in the music industry. He revealed that he shook hands with Russian-American classical pianist Vladimir Horowitz who won 25 Grammys before his death in 1989.

“I got to shake hands with Vladimir Horowitz!” Crystal said to a confused audience. “Google it!”

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Who was Vladimir Horowitz?

Vladimir Horowitz was an American classical pianist. He was born on October 1, 1903, in Kyiv, then in Russian Empire, and now in Ukraine. He was the youngest of four children of Samuil Horowitz and Sophia Bodik, who were assimilated Jews. His father, Samuli Horowitz, was a well-to-do electrical engineer and a distributor of electric motors for German manufacturers.

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Horowitz received piano instruction from an early age, initially from his mother, who was herself a pianist. Despite his early success as a pianist, he wanted to be a composer and pursue a career as a pianist only to help his family, who had lost their possessions in the Russian Revolution. Horowitz emigrated to Germany in December 1925 to study with Artur Schnabel in Berlin.

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Horowitz was celebrated for his flawless technique and an almost orchestral quality of tone. His performances of works by Franz Liszt, Sergey Rachmaninoff, Frédéric Chopin, Aleksandr Scriabin, Domenico Scarlatti, and Sergey Prokofiev were admired for their technical precision and dynamic range.

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He settled in the United States in 1940, becoming a citizen in 1944. Horowitz died on November 5, 1989, in New York, of a heart attack. He was 86. He was buried in the Toscanini family tomb in the Cimitero Monumentale, Milan, Italy.