To commemorate Liszt's 200th birthday year, this release gathers together all of Vladimir Horowitz's Liszt recordings controlled by the Sony/BMG group and previously issued by RCA, CBS, and Sony in a four-disc collection. Each disc covers a specific period of Horowitz's recording career, such as "The Last Decade", "Horowitz at Carnegie Hall--Early Live Recordings", and "Early Studio Recordings".
Though Disc 1 is entitled "CBS Studio Recordings and Horowitz's Return to Carnegie Hall", the Scherzo & March and B minor sonata respectively stem from Queens College in New York and St. Louis' Powell Hall. More importantly however, the recordings trace Horowitz's Liszt from his early 1930Read more RCA Victor sessions to merely days before his sudden death from a heart attack at age 86. Horowitz's Liszt interpretations are multi-leveled in their fusion of power, poetry, theatricality, and intimacy, even when the playing is variable.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, for example, Horowitz entered a mannered period, as his dynamic yet cramped and convoluted Mephisto Waltz No. 1 and Ballade No. 2 bear out. Neither B minor sonata completely satisfies. The recently unearthed 1947 live Carnegie Hall reading oozes with daring and imagination but doesn't match the coherent unity of the 1932 HMV recording (available from EMI and APR), and also contains a 22-bar cut beginning at the 3/2 measure marked Pesante (page 16 of the Kalmus edition score). By contrast, the uncut 1976 Liszt Sonata suffers from pianistic loose ends in the form of wrong and missed notes, pounded-out climaxes, and cautious octaves. In fairness, Horowitz's subsequent Liszt Sonata performances the following season grew increasingly assured and accurate.
Everyone's written about the 1930 Paganini Etude's thunderous descending interlocking octaves, yet no one has mentioned the fact that Horowitz drops beats. Nevertheless, rhythmic precision and canny timing impart character and thrust throughout virtuoso showpieces like the Hungarian Rhapsodies (Nos. 2, 15, and 19 feature the pianist's dazzlingly elaborate textural emendations), the Scherzo & March, and Horowitz's scintillating retooling of Liszt's Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre and Mendelssohn Wedding March transcriptions.
Among the five versions of Valse Oubliée No. 1, I prefer the live 1975 performance's playful dynamic inflections at the beginning and slightly greater expressive leeway in softer passages. But as much as I admire the 1951 studio Petrarch Sonnet No. 104's nervous intensity, the generally more expansive live 1986 version boasts no less hair-raising climaxes (the 82-year-old pianist could still shake out stunning octaves when so inclined).
Jeremy Siepmann's balanced and perceptive annotations do full and frank justice to the Horowitz/Liszt connection. Sony/BMG's transfers appear identical to those in the complete Horowitz Original Jacket Collection. In short, Horowitz collectors already may have much, most, or all of this material, but novices wishing to explore Horowitz's Liszt in depth won't go wrong.