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Notes and Editorial Reviews
VLADIMIR HOROWITZ AT CARNEGIE HALL—THE PRIVATE COLLECTION
Vladimir Horowitz (pn)
RCA 754604, mono (50:10) Live: New York 1945–1950
Phantasie in C.
Oriental Fantasy, “
St. Francis de Paul Walks on Water
This latest treasure trove from the recorded legacy of Vladimir Horowitz, all previously unreleased recordings, is of performances recorded live in concert at Carnegie Hall between 1945 and 1950. (A similar collection of recorded performances, with different repertoire, was released by RCA in the mid 1990s.) The present discs were donated to the Yale Music Library by Horowitz and his wife, along with a wide variety of other valuable archival materials such as concert programs, scores, correspondence, and the like. The interesting background to this CD is that Horowitz hired a private company to record his Carnegie Hall concerts during those five years, apparently for his own use, and would listen to them on occasion. Eventually, they were forgotten, and given to Yale by Horowitz as part of the archive. The restoration of most of the originals has been remarkably successful.
The music world is a great deal richer for having access now to this collection. While some of the works on this disc were favorites of Horowitz, and performed and recorded on other occasions, there are two indisputably important and unique additions here: arrangements by Horowitz of Liszt’s “St. Francis de Paul Walks on Water” from
, and Balakirev’s fabled “Islamey.” Although he performed them in concert, they were never recorded for commercial release. (Actually Horowitz performed “Islamey” during only one concert season, 1950, and the present performance dates from that time.) As most pianists are well aware, “Islamey” is considered one of the most technically demanding works in the keyboard repertoire—in other words, a perfect vehicle for Horowitz. Both the Liszt and Balakirev are absolutely stunning; the sheer technique involved—the tricky fast repeated notes, the cascades of runs and other fast passages, the accuracy of leaps, the control of dynamics—reveal Horowitz at the very peak of his career, demonstrating his absolute supremacy over the keyboard. The same must be said for his beautiful performance of Chopin’s Barcarolle, in which the pianist’s legendary singing right hand and judicious use of rubato create a haunting landscape.
The Schumann Phantasie was one of Horowitz’s favorite works; it was on the program at his 1965 Carnegie Hall “comeback” concert following a 12-year absence from the concert stage, and was issued by Columbia shortly after. The Phantasie heard here was recorded in April 1946, unfortunately accompanied by a good bit of noise from the original lacquer surfaces. Horowitz’s treatment of the first movement is truly like a fantasy, sounding dreamlike and spontaneous. It is a beautiful performance, even though in the treacherous coda of the second movement Horowitz seems to succumb to an attack of nerves, begins to rush, and actually loses it briefly before the final measures, with a memory slip and some wrong notes. But magically, the worst over, he plays the last movement with transfixing tenderness and beauty of sound.
This CD may constitute the final hidden treasures from Horowitz’s recorded legacy; but even if some new treasures are discovered, this one is a must for serious collectors.
FANFARE: Susan Kagan
This is prime Horowitz on staggering, fearless form..."
The second of three releases culled from Vladimir Horowitz's mid-1940s/early-1950s Carnegie Hall recitals offers alternative views of two works long familiar from his commercial discography, along with two showpieces otherwise unavailable in the Horowitz canon. The Schumann Fantasy is a classic example of Horowitz's genius for transforming the composer's busy, often thick textures into lean, translucent, and provocatively contoured sonorities. However, an unsettled quality emerges from the pianist's small yet persistent speed-ups and slow-downs within phrases that he would shape more simply in his 1965 comeback recital. Listeners following the score also will notice booming added octaves, plus a deletion of 19 measures from the second movement that's clearly intentional--not a memory lapse. Horowitz's similarly affetuoso approach to the Chopin Barcarolle flows better here than in his 1957 studio recording, notwithstanding the overly aggressive and tight-fisted coda.
Listeners familiar with Liszt's St. François de Paule marchant sur les flots will notice quite a few textual emendations that ultimately draw more attention to the pianist than the composer. That said, this is prime Horowitz on staggering, fearless form, as he also is throughout Balakirev's Islamey. Simon Barere may be unmatched for sheer speed, yet Horowitz's virtuosity is more expressive in its focused articulation, motoric momentum, and shrewd pedaling. He also omits a few bars here and there. Although words cannot adequately mirror the Horowitz experience, David Dubal's vibrant, refreshingly frank booklet notes come pretty darn close.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Volume 1 - Vladimir Horowitz At Carnegie Hall - The Private Collection - Music of Mussorgsky & Liszt.
This second release from the Yale archive recordings captures Vladimir Horowitz in his golden prime, playing his signature repertoire in concert at Carnegie Hall, where he celebrated the milestones in his career. Horowitz employed an engineer to make 78-rpm recordings of his Carnegie Hall concerts in this period, and he used them to review and judge his performances. Most of these mono recordings were originally contained on 12 and 16-inch acetate discs. They have been impeccably mastered, with the sound restored, from new transfers made in the Yale archives. Significant press accompanied the original announcement of the donation of these recordings to Yale, where Horowitz performed often through the years and was assistant fellow of Silliman College.
The second Private Collection release includes four works that take the listener deep into the heart of the Romantic age – Schumann’s
Fantasy in C Major, Op. 17; Chopin’s lilting
Barcarolle, Op. 60; Liszt’s evocative musical meditation
Legende No. 2 – St. Francis de Paule Walking on the Waves; and one of the most demanding pieces ever written for solo piano, Russian composer Mily Balakirev’s breathtaking steeplechase
Carnegie Hall Presents Series from
Works on This Recording
Featured Sound Samples
Légendes for Piano, S 175 (Liszt): No 2: St. Francis de Paule Walks on Water
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Horowitz Rocks the House with Islamey December 16, 2011
By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH) See All My Reviews
"Sony/BMG is digging into the Vladimir Horowitz archives at Yale University and unearthing more treasures. The items on this CD were recorded privately for Horowitz's use, and sat in his attic for decades before he donated them to Yale a year before his death. Horowitz's fans will already be intimately acquainted with his 1965 live performance of Schumann's C Major Fantasy, available in edited and non-edited versions. This 1946 recording shows a more volatile approach to the opening movement, with the tempo pushed forward and doubling of bass notes. Much of the tenderness of the 1965 recording is not to be heard here. The March bursts forth at a brisk tempo, but there will be controversy due to Horowitz's deletion of 19 measures midway through. Indeed, I can find no musical justification for this cut. The pianist throws caution to the wind during the infamous contrary motion leaps, and there is a clinker toward the end. Horowitz settles down for the contemplative last movement and there are some lovely moments and beautiful shadings. But on the whole I prefer the more poetic 1965 performance of the Fantasy, wrong notes and all. Evidenced by his recordings, Horowitz saw Chopin's Barcarolle as more of an erotic tone poem than a gondolier's song. While the first several minutes are elastic and expansive, Horowitz's performance of the piece grows more fervent towards the climax, which is explosive. Two items here are new to the Horowitz discography: Balakirev's Islamey, and Liszt's St. Francis Walking on the Water - both works with extensive revisions by Horowitz himself. Wanda Toscanini Horowitz was opposed to the release of these two works, on the ground that they were flashy repertoire that Horowitz did not play in his later years. (It should be noted that Wanda approved the release of Horowitz's disjointed 1986 Schubert B-flat Sonata, so her musical judgment was suspect. In any event, copies of these recordings have been circulating on the Internet for years.) St. Francis is problematic, partly because the work itself combines Liszt's best and worst qualities: spiritual luminosity and empty bombast. Horowitz tilts his performance toward the latter, adding interlocking octaves that suggest stormy weather, and an apocalyptic ending. Under his hands, the piece could be retitled St. Francis Surfing on the Waves during a Hurricane. Islamey, said by some to be the most difficult piece for solo piano ever written, gets a no-holds-barred, virtuoso performance. Horowitz begins the work at a breakneck tempo and, save for the lyrical central section, never lets up. But with all the speed and fury, Horowitz's coolness and nonchalance point out the work's humorous aspects. In addition to adding a more firecracker ending, Horowitz tightens some repetitive and rambling sections. The audience can barely contain itself and the raucous applause erupts well before the pianist plays the work's final two chords. The sound quality, restored by Jon Samuels, varies here. The source material was 78RPM and 33 1/3RPM discs, and only single copies were made. The Schumann and Liszt items suffer from wear and tear (likely by Horowitz himself) and sound muffled, while Islamey sounds nearly pristine. A few quibbles: At 60 minutes, this disc is not well filled - and with the huge cache of unreleased material in Sony/BMG's vaults, there is no excuse. And this CD, like many of Sony's new releases, is packaged in cheap "digipack" paperboard - so handle with care."