Horszowski made these recordings in January 1991 in the middle of his ninety-eighth year. While some of the works have appeared elsewhere, taken from recitals, the performances on the disc are superior sonically and musically. He is in great form and the Bach suite will remain a classic. In the Papillons he takes slower tempos, or, rather, luxuriates in them, while occasional details recall his former virtuosic powers. Horszowski pedals Chopin in a way ideally suited to a great hall, seeking to project the works in an epic fashion. Close microphone placement captures the details but gives the impression as though one were too near a statue to gain a full perspective. Exemplary performances played by a master musician. Dare we hope for more?Read more
Last, but not LeastDecember 16, 2011By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH)See All My Reviews"Mieczyslaw Horszowski lived to the age of 101 and enjoyed the longest career in the history of the performing arts. He never achieved, or aspired to, the notoriety of his friends Arthur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz. But in his last decade, he became something of a cult figure, his performances and recordings sought out by those curious about this last link to the Golden Age of Piano Playing, and those simply wondering whether someone so elderly could still move his fingers.
As record producer Max Wilcox wrote, "the fact that his body is old is beside the point." Wilcox, who worked with Rubinstein, signed Horszowski to the Nonesuch label in the mid-1980s, and together they made four fine recordings. This one, from 1991, was Horszowski's last recording.
Horszowski plays Bach unapologetically on the piano and makes no attempt (ALA Glenn Gould) to make the instrument sound like a quasi-harpsichord. When appropriate, he uses a bit of pedal, and employs dynamics and rubato. As my piano teacher (who was a pupil of Schnabel) remarked, "he plays Bach in a way that would be considered old-fashioned, but it's very beautiful." It's truly a pity that Horszowski never recorded the Goldberg Variations.
Schumann's Papillons was an early work that Horszowski played often. The pianist captures the shifting moods beautifully, without resorting to the tortured phrasing that afflicts too many Schumann performances, and tactfully bringing out inner voices. Despite hints of caution during some of the wide leaps, which serve as a reminder of Horszowski's failing eyesight, this is a performance for the ages.
Horszowski's Chopin is ravishing, as befits a fellow Pole--whose mother studied with Karl Mikuli, himself a pupil of Chopin. Sometimes referred to as a Romantic pianist, Horszowski is Classically oriented in all respects save two: his way of phrasing a group of notes as a singer would, and his de-emphasis of the bar line. He plays the ubiquitous "Raindrop" Prelude with a freshness that makes one forget all hackneyed associations.
Recorded at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, where Horszowski taught for fifty years, the sound is clear, spacious, and natural. "Report Abuse
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