HAYDN: Piano Sonata No. 62 in E-flat, Hob. VI:52. SCHUBERT:
Impromptu in G-flat, op. 90/3, D899. SCRIABIN: Vers la flamme, op.
in F#, op. 32/1. Etude in f#, op. 42/4. Etude in d#, op. 8/12. KABALEVSKY:
Piano Sonata No. 3 in F, op. 49. CHOPIN: Fantasie in f, op. 49. Nocturne
in e, op. 72/1. Impromptu No. 1 A-flat, op. 29. Nocturne in F#, op. 15/2.
Polonaise in A-flat, op. 53.
Vladimir Horowitz, Carnegie Hall, 2 February 1948.
Pristine Audio PAKM 071 TT: 79:52.
NOW FROM PRISTINE CLASSIVAL
BEETHOVEN : 32 Variations in c, WoO 80. SCHUBERT: Impromptu in G-flat, op.
90/3, D899. MUSSORGSKY (arr. Horowitz): Pictures at an Exhibition. CHOPIN: Ballade
No. 4 in f, op. 52. DEBUSSY: Children’s Corner Suite -- Sérénade à la
poupée. Études, Livre 1 -- Pour les huit doigts. LISZT : Funérailles.
RACHMANINOFF : Prelude in G, op. 32/5. Prelude in g, op. 23/5. SCARLATTI
Sonata in A, K322/L483.
Vladimir Horowitz, Carnegie Hall, 2 April 1948.
Pristine Audio PAKM 072 TT: 79:27
NOW FROM PRISTINE CLASSICAL
A master in his prime. During the Forties, four musicians became so dominant
in their fields that their instruments became identified with them, much as
Kleenex became the generic for paper tissue. Heifetz was The Violinist, Casals
Cellist, Segovia was The Guitarist, and Horowitz was The Pianist. In many ways,
this gave a skewed view not only of the musical scene, but of the nature of
each player’s art. Horowitz in particular received praise as “the perfect
pianist,” the virtuoso of fiendishly difficult music who “never played
a wrong note,” as if this were his main virtue. Now, of course, younger
pianists with just as much technique have come along, and yet Horowitz remains
a presence. We can ask what sets him apart now, when we’re no longer
blinded by the flash of his fingers?
First, we must note Horowitz’s comparatively small repertoire, a sliver
of major composers’ works. I don’t believe he ever recorded more
than half-a-dozen Beethoven sonatas. His Chopin, Brahms, and Debussy were similarly
confined. He tended to play the same pieces over and over. However, when he did
undertake “new” music -- Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 7, Barber’s
Sonata -- the results were often electrifying, and he did bring to light neglected
composers like Scarlatti, Clementi, and Scriabin. As an interpreter, Horowitz
did better in shorter works. He did not exhibit a mind for architecture, although
he had a wonderful narrative sense. You probably would not have wanted to hear
him in a work like Beethoven’s Sonata No. 31. As far as the monuments
of the repertoire are concerned, he shone in the standard concerti.
These discs make clear Horowitz as a master of color and wit. The Haydn and
Schubert (the latter the only duplicate on the programs) stand out. Horowitz
just pick a generic emotional wash but creates a line that subtly changes within
a phrase. This makes the Haydn in particular more interesting by emphasizing
its capricious turns of mood. Truth to tell, I prefer Haydn’s piano sonatas
to Mozart’s, which seem stodgy in comparison. The Haydn ranges over wide
expressive territory, and Horowitz keeps up. However, the Schubert, gorgeously
lyrical, lacks the extreme contrasts of the Haydn. Here, Horowitz fashions
an ever-shifting line, with exquisite crescendos and diminuendos (within single
phrases and over long spans of several phrases) and varieties of touch. The
is poetic, rather than corny, and with a great nobility. This may count as
my favorite track of the set.
Horowitz actually knew Scriabin, who encouraged him. Horowitz, in turn, became
one of the composer’s early champions. Most of this was, after all, Difficult
Modern Music back then, even though Scriabin’s youthful work had followed
in the tradition of Chopin. Horowitz programmed both early and late works, as
here -- from the stormy Chopinesque Étude in d#, through the very Debussian
Poème in F#, to the wild and wooly poem Vers la flamme, the composer’s
last completed work.
S.G.S. (June 2018)