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Notes and Editorial Reviews
For the most part Vladimir Horowitz is on his best late-period form in this previously unreleased (and presumably unedited) Berlin concert from May 18, 1986, held just weeks after the pianist's much heralded Moscow return. The Scarlatti sonatas, the Sonetto del Petrarca No. 104, and the Valse caprice are a little more sedate yet better controlled than their Moscow counterparts, while the two Scriabin etudes similarly prove more sure-footed (the D-sharp minor's difficult, soft opening, for example).
Despite a few wrong notes and pounded-out passages, Kreisleriana emerges as direct and coherent as in Horowitz's 1985 DG studio version, with even more inner voices popping out from Schumann's textural thickets. I like how Horowitz
enhances the syncopated effect of the final piece's accented bass notes by playing them slightly ahead of the beat. Once past a stumble at the outset, Rachmaninov's G major Prelude coddles the ear as it nearly always did in Horowitz's hands (if the chromatic coda doesn't make you drool, see your doctor!), while the G-sharp minor is broader, more massively contoured than in Horowitz's leaner 1967 Columbia Masterworks live recording.
I've never warmed to Horowitz's post-1985 Chopin A-flat Polonaise performances, with their poky phrasings and contrived accentuations (his equally fustian yet more taut 1971 Columbia studio version is far superior), yet he's more comfortable here with the Trio's notorious octaves than in Moscow or in his 1987 Vienna and Hamburg recitals. But Horowitz's technicolor abilities truly come home to roost in the two gorgeously stretched-out Chopin Mazurkas.
The acoustics of the Berliner Philharmonie's Grosse Saal flatter Horowitz's ravishing, variegated tone, together with his genius for dynamic projection. Three extensive booklet essays discuss the event, the music-making, and the pianist's Berlin connection in thorough detail. One complaint: Kreisleriana's eight movements are banded together as a single track.
--Jed Distler, ClassicssToday.com
Works on This Recording
Kreisleriana, Op. 16 by Robert Schumann
Vladimir Horowitz (Piano)
Written: 1838; Germany
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Horowitz conquers Berlin December 16, 2011
By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH) See All My Reviews
"Despite returning to studio recording in 1985, a number of Vladimir Horowitz's live recitals have been released over the last two decades: Two from Milan in 1985, Moscow (on both CD and video) and Leningrad from 1986, Vienna (on video) and Hamburg (his last recital) in 1987. This recital from 1986, Horowitz's first concert in Berlin (then known as West Berlin) since 1932, is in many ways the best of the bunch.
The Scarlatti Sonatas are by turns sober, sprightly, and bouncy. The biggest piece is Schumann's Kreisleriana, and the performance really coheres, belying the fragmentary nature of the work. Despite a few wrong notes and some blurring at points, Horowitz's treatment of Kreisleriana's more demanding passages proves that the technical achievements of his 1985 studio recording were no editorial trick. Horowitz must have been in love with the Schubert-Liszt Soirees de Vienne, he played it at every one of his 1985-1987 concerts. The piece brings out Horowitz the charmer, nearly a forgotten commodity these days.
There is a minor fumble in the Rachmaninoff G Major Prelude, (where the right hand crosses over the left) but Horowitz covers it up in a way that will have knowledgeable listeners smiling. The remaining Rachmaninoff and Scriabin pieces go without incident and are more technically stable than Horowitz's Moscow performance. Liszt's Sonetto del Petrarcha is more organic, less sectionalized than the Moscow performance, with a slight reduction of bravura in favor of poetry - and ravishing pianissimos. Those pianissimos also feature in Liszt's Valse oublieé, given as an encore.
It was in Berlin where Horowitz's performances of Chopin Mazurkas in the 1920s led to the headline "Our Piano Culture is Reawakened." Appropriately, two contrasting Mazurkas are presented here, featuring lovely plasticity of phrasing and creative balancing of inner voices. The A-flat Polonaise makes for a sure-fire recital closer, with Horowitz taking the famous left-hand octaves at a faster pace than he usually did in his later years.
The acoustics of the Berliner Philharmonie auditorium seem to agree with Horowitz, and the sound quality is excellent. The reverentially quiet audience helps. Strangely, this recording is being issued by Sony Classical rather than Deutsche Grammophon, which was Horowitz's recording company in 1986. No matter. The 36 page booklet contains three perceptive essays and numerous photos (including rare pictures of Horowitz wearing eyeglasses). "