Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall–The Private Collection = HAYDN: Sonata No.52 in E-flat Major; BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Op. 53 “Waldstein”; Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2 “Moonlight” – Vladimir Horowitz, piano – RCA Red Seal

by | Jan 14, 2010 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall–The Private Collection = HAYDN: Sonata No.52 in E-flat Major; BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Op. 53 “Waldstein”; Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2 “Moonlight” – Vladimir Horowitz, piano

RCA Red Seal Carnegie Hall Presents series 88697 54605 2, 50: 21 ****:

More delectable Horowitz treasures from the archives he bequeathed to Yale University, taken from recitals given at Carnegie Hall, 1945-1948. Produced by Allan Seckler and engineered by Jon Samuels, we can hear the icy brilliant Horowitz–often of the lacquered hammers–in some of the more Classical examples from his huge repertory. The rather bold modulations of the Haydn (2 February 1948) first movement–in the style of a French overture–appeal to the Horowitz patent on non-legato filigree, the intensely lyrical “clockwork” he can bring to staccato runs. The Neapolitan move to E Major for the Adagio proves perpetually striking, especially as Horowitz makes it sound like a gondolier song in a soul-searching plaint. No less compelling is the sense of improvisation that Horowitz bestows on its rambles – shades of the Bach sons. The darker plummets anticipate Beethoven and Liszt. The stop-and-start Presto enjoys a music-box sonority, ever playful and dexterous, even in its charming colorful bravura. Despite some crackle in the surviving discs (noticeable during the quieter portions), the performance conveys an electric tension and muscular flexion that become quite palpable in the artist/audience rapport.

For the recital of 28 March 1945 Horowitz delivers us a Waldstein of brisk and plastic motion, the hands light as the repeated notes of the opening Allegro con brio graduate to the E Major dolce theme and then to the rounded stretti and cascades that mark this as one of the great virtuoso works in the Beethoven canon. Horowitz seems intent to bring even the no melodic chords into some color relief, shading the rhythms and basking in the mediant harmonies that so often lulled Schubert. The latter pages of the recapitulation assume a blistering aggression, the upward scales moving at lightning speed. The coda literally flies off the page, almost peremptory.

Rarely has a 6/8 tempo achieved such a cosmic haze as in the Horowitz Introduzione Adagio molto, almost a study for the wonderful second movement of the G Major Concerto. The play of the chords anticipates much in the late quartets and plenty of Bartok. The tension literally dissipates and distills itself into the lithe reverie that marks the Rondo, here played with a disarming grace and pearly patina by the Horowitz of a thousand colors. The A Minor episode has a heaven-storming power that belies the limpid filigree that surrounds it. The C Minor central counterpoint comes on in a torrent of dance and mad fury. The mercurial and the mysterious coalesce in the most amazing alchemy, then the return to C Major in a series of enlarged gestures, an Aeolian harp. Just as sudden, the Prestissimo bursts forth from Horowitz, light as a pointed feather, sting like a bee. The last pages, rife with clarion trills and liquid bells, sends the audience, then and now, into bristling ecstasies.

It was Schnabel who claimed that the only encore to a Beethoven sonata was more Beethoven–hence the Moonlight Sonata (28 April 1947).  Horowitz emphasizes its color-study affect, the “quasi fantasia” propulsion of a repeated broken chord, rather expansively articulated in long breathed phrases whose ostinato triplets assume a vocal character. The eventual fall of the progression has a nobility that we find in a rare few, like Moiseiwitsch. The D-flat Major Allegretto shines like a sudden lamp in the twilight, almost a delicate gallop. Horowitz injects hint of the military into the rhythm, andantino. Like a wisp, the music vanishes into the Presto agitato, certainly the real climax of the entire  piece. Horowitz pulls out anything like stops in this febrile rendition, a true firestorm that dares Rudolf Serkin to compete. That Horowitz maintains a dynamic lid on what is a ‘piano’ indication studded with sforzati and occasional fortissimi testifies to a thorough master of his keyboard palette.  Superb!

–Gary Lemco

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