by | Dec 17, 2015 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Horowitz: Return to Chicago = SCARLATTI: Sonata in E Major, K. 380; Sonata in E Major, K. 135; MOZART: Adagio in b minor, K. 540; Rondo in D Major, K. 485; Piano Sonata in C Major, K. 330; SCRIABIN: Etude in c-sharp minor, Op. 2, No. 1; Etude in d-sharp minor, Op. 8, No. 12; SCHUMANN: Arabeske in C Major, Op. 18; Traeumerei, Op. 15, No. 7; LISZT: Sonetto 104 del Petrarca; Soiree de Vienne No. 6; CHOPIN: Mazurka in c-sharp minor, Op. 63, No. 3; Mazurka in f minor, Op. 7, No. 3; Scherzo No. 1 in b minor, Op. 20; MOSZKOWSKI: Etincelles, Op. 36, No. 6; BONUS: Two Radio Interviews, 1986 and 1974 – Vladimir Horowitz, piano – DGG 479 4649 (2 CDs), (11/13/15) 43:47; 78:51 [Distr. by Universal] ****:

The legendary Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) remained quite fond of the city of Chicago, having visited the city thirty-seven times between 1928-1986, his claiming Chicago had accorded him early respect for his special virtuosity. Horowitz also courted Chicago for personal reasons; viz., his long relationship with pianist-pedagogue Gitta Gradova (nee Weinstock), who passed away in 1985, aged 81. Both artists had enjoyed the esteemed friendship of composer Sergei Rachmaninov. Wishing to bequeath Chicago a lasting document of his affection, Horowitz granted WFMT free access to record his 26 October 1986 recital, that featured the same repertory Horowitz had played in Boston, 19 October.  Aired but once, the tape had been stored in the radio stations vaults until 1983, when editor Jon Samuels – in collaboration  with Byron Janis – resurrected this testament to the Horowitz “Indian summer” of his late style.

Horowitz begins with the immediately sparkling assets in his arsenal, by performing two works in E Major by Scarlatti, examples of poised symmetry and elegant fluency of line. The K. 380 asks for delicately martial figures in echo effects, which Horowitz neatly balances between mezzo-voce and piano dynamics.  The purling legatos Horowitz invokes create a meditative intimacy of projection, unfortunately marred by off-the-beat coughing fits from his admirers.  The equally pensive K. 135 involves pert syncopes and brilliant runs, often executed with music-box sonority. When Horowitz projects a hard patina – as he often did in Rachmaninov, Chopin, and Scriabin – we wonder if his piano technician had lacquered the instrument’s hammers.

Horowitz next approaches Mozart, here in 1788, with the composer’s highly “emotional” Adagio in B Minor, an independent study in sonata form whose audacious chromatic modulations bespeak debts to the Bach family and to the emergent sturm und drang sensibility. Through the series of dissonant suspensions and diminished sevenths, Horowitz remains focused on maintaining the pathos intact, a unity of concentrated passion. For dynamic juxtaposition, Horowitz performs the spry 1786 Rondo in D Major, after a tune by J.C. Bach. A deceptively titled work, given its sonata form, it invokes from Horowitz the light touch, a bravura music-box which occasionally sounds in minor keys and in A Major. Horowitz concludes the Mozart group with his preferred 1783 Sonata in C, K. 330, possibly in his most successful recorded rendition. That Horowitz had rebuilt his technique for his repertory becomes quite apparent in the finesse of his thirty-second notes and seamless alternation of legato and staccato motives in the opening Allegro moderato.  Horowitz makes the piano meditate persuasively for the F Major Andante cantabile, then moves confidently into the Allegretto, whose dotted-eighth, rhythmic kernel leaps with the same impish fluency we heard in Scarlatti.

Except for the Chopin Mazurka, Op. 63, No. 3 and the Schumann Arabeske in C – new to the DGG Horowitz legacy – Horowitz revisits old flames from his distinguished repertory.  Ardent, romantic yearning permeates the two Scriabin entries; but the chromatic flame that infiltrates the d-sharp minor Etude exacts a grip upon us long after the last chords. Nostalgic Schumann, followed by poetic and stylistic Liszt, especially the reminiscence-pastiche “Soiree” of Schubert, to which Horowitz returned with renewed, delicate energy in his various recitals.  I have always credited Horowitz with more “stylish” Chopin mazurka execution and natural tesknota than I grant Artur Rubinstein.  While the mighty b minor Scherzo has its occasional finger slip or digital knot, the emotional dramatic shape and lyrical suasion – of the central noel – convince us completely. After the ubiquitous Schumann “Dreams,” the skittish Moszkowski “Sparks” sound a fond farewell to a beloved venue from a self-proclaimed “priest of music.”

Two interviews follow: with Norman Pellegrini of WFMT, 25 October 1986, and with critic Thomas Willis (30 October 1974), intended as intermission features for the original broadcast, of which the latter here receives a fuller exposure.

—Gary Lemco

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