CD Review: Horowitz Discovered Treasures (1962-1972)

Horowitz Discovered Treasures (1962-1972)
Previously Unreleased Studio Recordings
1992, from Sony Classical

Horowitz Discovered Treasures (1962-1972)

Russian-born Vladimir Horowitz (September 18, 1903 – November 5, 1989) made his first Victor gramophone recordings for piano in 1928. (Previous to that, performances in 1926 on piano rolls were produced at the Welte-Mignon* studios in Freiburg, Germany.)  It’s a testament to the longevity of his immense virtuosity as a pianist that a CD was released in the early 1990s containing previously unreleased material from studio recordings.

As an aficionado of piano music, Horowitz has always been a favourite pianist of mine. Having had this CD in my collection since the early days of its release, I am awestruck to this day by his expressive, elastic fingers drawing out so much emotion and succinct conversation from and with the keyboard. He was a pianist who played wholeheartedly, tinging notes with gentle, playful pulses, and given the changing moods within a piece, with contrasting full-blooded strikes of the keys.

The selections of this issue were recordings that did not make it onto previous Horowitz releases, and it can only be thought of as omission not by lack of merit, but solely by too little track space available. This single CD itself runs 67 minutes – and it isn’t long enough in one sitting to appreciate everything Horowitz was.

He does approach Scarlatti distinctively, and extraordinarily. When that one staccato high note rings out during the Sonata in G Major (track 5), the key reverberates with the angelic charm of a heavenly bell chime. He is not genteel with the first two Chopin tracks, rather edgy and impatient, and then with cautious passion, he sensitively interprets the third, “Raindrop” Prelude. He goes on to display unparalleled mastery with his volatile and jumbly yet fiercely precise romp of Alexander Scriabin’s Etude, Opus 65, No 3 (track 17).

The CD is consummately titled as the pianist’s discovered treasures. As well, they satisfy the desire for something extravagant to relish on a langorous afternoon. Like a thunderstorm, there will be welcome gentle rain at times, punctuated by sudden luminescent lightning strikes, but always with a feel of brilliance. Not unlike Horowitz himself, perhaps.

*About Welte-Mignon piano rolls, as related by Wiki:
” …a young inventor in Germany, Edwin Welte, was working on a player which controlled all the aspects of the performance automatically, so that his machine would play back a recorded performance exactly as if the original pianist was sitting at the piano keyboard. This device, the Welte-Mignon, was launched in 1904. It created new marketing opportunities, as manufacturers could now get the foremost pianists and composers of the day to record their performances on a piano roll, allowing owners of player pianos to experience such a performance in their own homes on their own instruments, exactly as the original pianist had played it.”

Copyright © September 2015: Lorraine Dmitrovic

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