This June 21, 1987 recital from Hamburg capped Vladimir Horowitz's last European tour and proved to be his final public performance. It confirms what we know of the relaxed, poetic style characterizing the veteran pianist's late-period DG recordings. His joy reconnecting with Mozart's music is everywhere evident in the D major Rondo, while the B-flat K. 333 receives a more direct, less garishly accented interpretation in comparison with his studio traversal a few months earlier (this time Horowitz wisely ignores the first movement's second-half repeat).
The Schubert/Liszt Valse-Caprice splits the difference between Horowitz's solid, ever-so-slightly cautious studio version and the more volatile performance from the historicRead more 1986 Moscow concert. His own conclusion, of course, delights as much as his revamped ending to Moszkowski's Etincelles. Although Horowitz always garnished Schumann's Kinderszenen with affetuoso gestures, the Hamburg reading is far superior to the overly mannered caricature from five years earlier, preserved on Horowitz in London (RCA). Yet Horowitz's unique legato pedaling truly comes to the fore in the Chopin B minor Mazurka's fanciful cantabiles. By playing softly with tricky details in much of the A-flat Polonaise, the old pro cannily substitutes craft for the galvanic thrust of yore. Not essential, perhaps, but thoroughly enjoyable, and very well recorded too.
A Fond FarewellDecember 16, 2011By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH)See All My Reviews"For those familiar with Vladimir Horowitz's televised recital from Vienna a few weeks prior to this one, both the repertoire and the manner of performance will be similar. There are a few differences in details, which mainly spring from the differences between Vienna's Golden Hall and Hamburg's Music Hall, which is "dryer" acoustically. By 1987, Horowitz had stripped his playing of much of the artifice which marred the performances he gave while in his 70s. Gone were the bizarre rubati and general obliteration of structure, and in their place was an unforced spontaneity and balance between tension and relaxation. A case in point is Schumann's Scenes from Childhood, which Horowitz recorded several times. Horowitz's two studio renderings, from 1950 and 1962, are fairly straightforward accounts, with occasional lapses into pianistic micromanagement and hints of nervousness when there should be relaxation. A 1982 live recording is almost the opposite, with nonsensical rubatos, distended ritards, slack rhythm, and almost no coherence. But here, in 1987, Horowitz has pulled himself together and plays with simplicity, controlled freedom, and conviction. It is often said that the elderly sometimes return to a childlike state. In old age, Horowitz had achieved communion with Schumann's visions of childhood lost. Horowitz still dared, however, to look beyond the printed page and interpret the music. Few pianists have ever dared to make Chopin's Mazurka in B Minor sound so sassy and sexy. As far as technical matters go, Horowitz's fingers are fully up to the task of his chosen repertoire. By now, the octogenarian realized he was no longer capable of sustained virtuoso fireworks, so he often substituted finesse and coloration for bravura. The balance and evenness of his passagework, his incredible control of lower levels of dynamics, and ear for pedaling remain unrivaled. There are, however, tiny memory lapses which occur during the early part of the concert (and in almost the exact same places as occurred in his Vienna concert). However, these are not greatly distracting and can be easily forgiven, and they are nowhere near as pronounced as those I witnessed at Claudio Arrau's last Boston recital. Only note perfect pedants will cry foul. DG includes a note indicating that one work, Schubert's Impromptu, D 899, No. 3 was not included in the broadcast or this recording due to technical reasons. However, my understanding is that it was omitted due to an audience member who became ill and had to leave, which created a noisy distraction. Copies of this recital, which was broadcast, have been circulating among collectors for years. However, radio broadcasts are typically compressed and this was no exception. For this release, DG has gone to the uncompressed master tape, which sounds entirely natural, with ideal microphone placement that brings Horowitz into the room. So, even if you have the "pirate" tape, it's well worth getting this CD."Report Abuse