Classic Library - Beethoven: Piano Sonatas / Horowitz
Rca Victor Red Seal
Ludwig van Beethoven
Number of Discs:
1 Hours 4 Mins.
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Works on This Recording
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Horowitz's 1950s take on Beethoven - the Moonligh December 16, 2011
By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH) See All My Reviews
"The contents on this CD, deriving from recordings made in 1956 and 1959, have been issued several times.
Horowitz seemed more comfortable in Beethoven's well known "Appassionata" than in any other of the composer's solo works. This 1959 recording (Horowitz's first in stereo) shows a sober Horowitz concentrating on the structure, rather than the drama of the first movement - no heart on sleeve hysteria here! The second movement variations are played as simply and directly as Horowitz can manage. The finale is taken at a sensible tempo - more "ma non troppo" than "allegro". But Horowitz tends to get caught up in detail, rather than maintaining forward motion. His 1972 Columbia recording, now available on Sony, is more successful in this respect.
The other items here were recorded in the living room of Horowitz's Manhattan townhouse in 1956. They are in mono and the sound, though clattery and constricted, has been improved since the original LP issue. Horowitz made three studio recordings of the ubiquitous "Moonlight" Sonata - each time at the behest of the recording company which wanted saleable repertoire. (There is also a fourth recording, from a 1940s Carnegie Hall concert, that was released posthumously.) The 1956 recording is the most successful of Horowitz's attempts at this piece. The key lies in the deeply felt first movement - by far the slowest of Horowitz's recorded versions. (Legend has it that the pianist halted production of the LP to rerecord the movement which he had initially played at a faster tempo.) The dynamics here are precisely controlled so that the melody is sustained and balanced with the accompaniment. The second movement is played with melancholy grace, while the third is burning with frustration and played at an astonishing tempo. The sonata as a whole emerges as fresh and vital, instead of as the hackneyed repertoire favorite one usually hears.
The "Waldstein" is less successful. As in Arthur Rubinstein's 1954 recording, Horowitz seems to have overthought the piece. The first movement is played with portentous ritards which undermine the motivic underpinning of the piece (Paul Jacobs was one of the few performers who got this movement right). The second movement is given with restrained dynamics. But when Horowitz unleashes his fortissimos in the finale, the sound becomes a bit hard on the ears (more the fault of the recording engineers than his own). Horowitz's 1972 Waldstein features stricter tempi and far better sound.