Arbiter 154 78:02 (Distrib. Qualiton) ****:
Any disc that provides new recorded repertory by eminent Polish virtuoso Mieczyslaw Horszowski (1892-1993) must be taken seriously, and these two concerts demand our attention. The Beethoven C Major Concerto had already been a staple in the pianist’s repertoire in 1910, when he played it with a Warsaw orchestra under Emil Mlynarski. This live, 19 January 1958 collaboration from Holland with Mauritz van den Berg enjoys a relaxed, broad tempo that allows Horszowski to luxuriate in his own sound, a pearly affair that sparkles and sings at once. Despite persistent tape hiss, a deeply resonant performance emerges, a bravura canvas of rich, polished textures. The music-box sonority of the first movement cadenza will delight auditors, especially connoisseurs of old-school spaciousness and quicksilver control. Collectors will cultivate the performance as a corrective to the 1953 realization with Pablo Casals at the Prades Festival, in which the principals took a hasty approach to matters of tempo. Some wobble in the winds of the A-flat Largo second movement does not detract from the liquid breadth of the conception, gently lyric and solemn. The rollicking, metrical capricious last movement Rondo has both principals exchanging pointed, staccato barbs and jabbing sforzati at each other most audaciously. Each repetition of the main theme exerts a bit more wit, a tad more impishness from piano and woodwinds, right up to the thunderous finale.
Mendelssohn’s A Minor Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra (24 February 1962) became a staple in Horszowski’s repertory in 1961, when he played it with Rudolf Baumgartner. The concerto was bequeathed to the Royal Library in Berlin in 1878 by the Mendelssohn family, generous in permitting youthful, unpublished manuscripts to be collected for future study or performance. Modeled on Beethoven and Weber, the first movement has Horszowski alternating chords of sixteenth notes and executing audacious leaps and runs. The solo violin and cello play against the piano in concertante fashion in the middle of the movement. The coda rings with premonitions of the G Minor and D Minor concertos. An Adagio in E Major follows, leading with muted strings and wending its way to an instrumental recitative not too far from the spirit of Bach’s F Minor Concerto. The middle section in B Minor evinces more agitation, the mutes off the strings, the basses plucked, hinting at Der Freischuetz. Transparency returns and moves to a forecast of the Nocturne from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The concluding Rondo allots merely two orchestral passages to the strings; else, the solo piano cavorts and frolics in its hegemony. Polite applause ensues after the last, gentle rolls of the principals.
The Beethoven Menuetto and two Brahms pieces from Op. 119 date c. 1949, test pressings made in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Scratchy, swishy sound but the playing is clear, articulate, and poised despite the shabby condition of the originals. The Brahms B Minor projects a palpable anguish in its stylized progressions; the C Major is less charming than explosively kaleidoscopic. Fascinating peeks at repertoire this artist should have set down under commercial, professional conditions.
— Gary Lemco