T. Drake says it all...January 29, 2015By James Carleton (Port Hueneme, CA)See All My Reviews"I have little to add to the previous review, other than to say that this is one of the treasures of my extensive collection. I bought it as soon as it was released, and have played it hundreds of times. I can give it no higher compliment."Report Abuse
Last, but Not LeastDecember 16, 2011By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH)See All My Reviews"Vladimir Horowitz had just celebrated his 86th birthday when sessions for this recording began in October of 1989. He had recently been lured to Sony Classical by their new director, Gunther Breest, who had signed Horowitz on at Deutsche Grammphon in 1985. One advantage that Sony carried, besides a bigger paycheck, was the latest technology. This recording utilized Sony's then new 20-bit technology, which resulted in a more defined sound picture for this most subtle of pianists. The contents of this CD were all new to the Horowitz discography. By the late 1980s, Horowitz had refined and stripped down his art to the essentials. There are none of the histrionics of his early recordings, nor any of the attempts to prove to the listener that he could still play the fastest and the loudest which marred some of his recordings from the 1970s.
Horowitz was stimulated by Haydn's diverse pianistic textures and whimsical changes of mood. The first movement, a bouncy Allegro, is a perfect demonstration the "controlled freedom" of Horowitz's late period. While following the same basic pulse, Horowitz introduces tiny alterations of tempo which keeps the music flowing coherently, without sounding metronomic. The rapidly ascending scale passages here are played with a dazzling evenness of touch. The slow movement, a true cantabile, is phrased as though it were being sung rather than played. The minor key outburst is, for a rarity, truly shocking. The Finale is played with a gentle virtuosity which never goes beyond the bounds of appropriate Haydn style.
Horowitz recorded more of Chopin's music than that of any other composer. He was justly famous for his performances of Chopin's Mazurkas, which seamlessly blended the dance and poetic elements. The performance of the C minor Mazurka here makes one regret he didn't record many more.
Horowitz was fanatically passionate about Ignaz Friedman's performances of the Nocturnes, but recorded surprisingly few himself. Many of his earlier recordings of the Nocturnes were played on too large a scale, with a prevalent note of hysteria. The two Nocturnes presented here are another story indeed. There is a rare sense of repose, at times an almost deathly calm, about these performances. There is also Horowitz's rare ability to weight the various elements of melody, harmony, and accompaniment, down to the smallest micron. Horowitz' floating of the top, middle, and lower lines, interweaving them effortlessly, is in many ways more stunning than any kind of thundering virtuosity.
But if it's the more obvious kind of virtuosity you want, it is amply demonstrated in the Fantasie-Impromptu. Played at an extremely fast tempo, Horowitz demonstrates here that fidelity and freedom with regard to the score can coexist. He is one of the few pianists who bothers to repeat the first phrase as a quieter echo of the forte statement--as indicated in the score. He also preserves the structure of the piece by maintaining the initial tempo in the central section rather than slowing down to chase rainbows--and he adds some tiny embellishments along the way.
Horowitz is technically and musically on top of the A-flat Etude, but the E Minor Etude suffers from an overstressed ending.
Horowitz was very selective about which Liszt he chose to preserve on recordings. For this recording, he chose the rarely played Prelude from Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, a desolate reworking of a theme from J. S. Bach's Cantata No. 12. Horowitz masterfully alters the mood for each variation, while maintaining the inner continuity of the piece.
Naturally, the Wagner/Liszt Liebestod (literally, "Love/Death") would have extramusical implications due to the circumstances of the recording. It is true, Horowitz plays the aria as if he knew this would be his swansong, giving the performance all the eroticism, lyricism, and thundering virtuosity he could muster, for the last time. He died on Sunday, November 5th, four days after the Liebestod was taped.
This recording is a must for all Horowitz admirers, indeed, for all those who value great piano playing. The informative and moving liner notes are by Horowitz's friend and junior colleague Murray Perahia, who was with the Maestro the day before he died. "Report Abuse