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Works on This Recording
Toccata in C minor, BWV 911 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Vladimir Horowitz (Piano)
Written: circa 1717; Weimar, Germany
Date of Recording: 3/21/1949
Venue: Live Carnegie Hall, NYC
Length: 10 Minutes 46 Secs.
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Stunning Live Performances from Horowitz December 16, 2011
By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH) See All My Reviews
"Starting in 1945, Vladimir Horowitz engaged the Carnegie Hall Recording Company to record all of his solo recitals in that venue. He paid for the recordings himself, and discontinued them after 1950, when RCA began recording his concerts there. Horowitz would listen to the 78RPM and long-playing discs from time to time, usually at the request of one of his students. He seems to have lost interest in them in the 1960s, and they were stored away in the top floor of his New York townhouse. In 1986, while he was getting his affairs in order, he came upon the discs and donated them to Yale University, alma mater of his friend and record producer Tom Frost. After Horowitz died in 1989, Frost listened to all thirteen recitals, and realized that the performances merited public release. In the end, it was decided to release only compositions which were not otherwise in Horowitz's discography, two CDs worth of material.
This performance of the Toccata, BWV 911, is the only available recording of Horowitz playing "untouched" Bach. He brings an almost Gouldian clarity to the proceedings, with a uniquely Horowitzian angst.
The Clementi pieces are played with a larger dynamic range than is customary with music of this period. The Sonata in A, Op. 36, No. 1 features a gentle Allegro and a rollicking Presto. These performances, from 1949-50 disprove the legend that Horowitz "discovered" Clementi while recovering from his 1953 nervous breakdown.
Horowitz rarely Played Chopin's Fantasie, Op. 49 in public, and this recording demonstrates why. The pianist is at his worst here, torturing rhythm, phrasing, and structure. Nor is he as on top of the piece technically as one would expect. If it weren't for the surface noise of this 1948 recording, one would easily guess this was the "mad-scientist" Horowitz of the late 1970s. The other Chopin works fare much better, and sound like Horowitz' typical Chopin playing of the time: bold, large-scaled, technically immaculate performances.
The Liszt and Mendelssohn pieces are played with simplicity and grace, with some miraculous chord-voicing in the Liszt Consolations.
The Rachmaninoff Etude-tableau, which concludes the CD, is played in a declamatory, riveting fashion, with a central section which comes dangerously close to veering out of control.
The sound varies considerably, from the faded Mendelssohn to the nearly pristine Liszt. Horowitz played some of these recordings relatively often, while others he apparently ignored. Since Horowitz' copies of these recordings are the only ones known to exist, we have to accept them surface noise and all. At least we have the comfort of knowing the scratches were made by the Maestro himself. "