Horszowski Recital = BACH: Partita No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 826; MOZART: Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, K. 570; CHOPIN: Nocturne in C Sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 1; Nocturne in D-flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2; Mazurka in C Major, Op. 24, No. 2; DEBUSSY: Children’s Corner Suite – Mieczyslaw Horszowski, piano
BBC Legends BBCL 4203-2, 68:55 (Distrib. Koch) ****:
Among the modern legends of the keyboard Mieczyslaw Horszowski (1892-1993) stands apart, given the sheer longevity of his career and the musical diversity that he embraced. Like many collectors of his work, I first became acquainted with his gifts from some Vox label LPs that included a pungent Diabelli Variations of Beethoven. A pupil of Theodor Leschetizky, Horszowski cultivated a sensitivity to tone and dynamics, and to the innate flexibility of his (Polish) rhythm. This CD is composed of two recitals from Aldeburgh, 13 June 1983 and 9 June 1984 (Debussy), and embraces a rich diversity of musical styles and color tapestries.
Horszowski opens with Bach’s Partita No. 2 in C Minor, a work that begins with a stately French overture, then advances with resolution and febrile polyphony. The Allemande reveals all sorts of metrical tugs of war, a capacity for the harmonic shaping of a melody we hear again in the Mozart sonata. The later dance episodes of the Partita bounce with an idiosyncratic grace and joviality that may prove unorthodox to purists. His elastic meter breaks loose in the Capriccio, which establishes and violates bar lines simultaneously. The Mozart B-flat Sonata enjoys a polished, serene surface tension, a crystalline control of the passing harmonizations, like Mozart’s occasional savoring of the Lydian mode or a willful apoggiatura. The Allegretto glitters with elfish punctuations and inner pulsations that quite charm us with the eminent youthfulness of discovery.
Horszowski’s Chopin is not quite like anyone else’s. If Rubinstein’s Chopin took Brahms as an intermediary, Horszowski has no softening agent, and his rough edges might prove Chopin a close harmonic cousin of Bartok. The C-sharp Minor Nocturne plunges through misty harmonies to emerge in national glories, somber and proud. Gorgeous pedal effects soften the effects, making the paint drip off the canvas. The D-flat Nocturne proves more gossamer still, with some of the softest ppps in keyboard experience. If a piece warranted the nickname “Moonlight,” this quivering distribution of light is it. A sparkling Mazurka in C, a peasant dance with aspirations of highest nobility, and its final chord provokes a torrent of applause.
The Debussy Children’s Corner immediate turns a pedantic exercise-piece on Gradus ad Parnassum into a suave water-piece. Jimbo’s Lullaby casts more than one passing glance at Schumann. The magical palette Horszowaki applies to the Serenade for the Doll convinces us that inanimate object do hearken to our inner music. Gentle, swirling triplets fro dancing snow; but what grabs our ears is the colored weights Horszowski tenders the chords themselves, the slight tugs at the rhythm. Artful simplicity in The Little Shepherd, an ingenuous economy. When Golliwog’s Cakewalk strikes up the band, all swagger and irreverently romantic – its snipes at Tristan notwithstanding – we can only concur that the Old Master, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, had played the ancient Orpheus to our enchanted ears.
— Gary Lemco