LABELS: RCA Gold Seal
WORKS: Horowitz at the Met: music by Scarlatti, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninov
PERFORMER: Vladimir Horowitz (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61416 2 DDD
Vladimir Horowitz died in November 1989 and still the discs keep rolling out, some of studio recordings pieced together painstakingly in his final years, others, like these, of public recitals. They were recorded in 1981 and 1982 respectively, when Horowitz was 77. The sound on the New York recital is excellent, there are only a few distant coughs and no applause until the end.
The audience is also unobtrusive in the London recital but the piano sounds much more boxy and thin. Yet in both, the tremendous roar that Horowitz conjures up in climaxes and the plangent tone in more intimate melodies bear witness to his unique style. The trouble is, at that stage of his life he presented these characteristics with an air of self-consciousness and a good deal of technical caution. The Scarlatti sonatas in the New York recital are the best thing of all and full of expressive energy.
But Chopin’s Fourth Ballade is a lightweight (almost at times, an offhand) interpretation, nor was Horowitz technically in complete command of its final section. In the London recital, Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantaisie and First Ballade are more compelling, at least in fits and starts, while Schumann’s Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) are full of magical touches, though hardly childlike. They seemed even better at the time, and these documentary discs both show that it is better to let some occasions pass. Adrian Jack