Friday, July 19, 2013
This is Vladimir Horowitz's second-last recital in London, filmed live at the Royal Festival Hall in May 1982 (the last one was a week later. Thanks to my pianophile-in-chief consultant for the correction). He was not a well man by then, and apparently was on much medication, but the old magic is alive and well despite some slips; listen to the tone, the voicing, the variety of imagination, and a Polonaise-Fantaisie that certainly draws the tears from fanatics like me... And the way he plays the national anthem at the outset is a sliver of piano genius in itself, though this audience of 31 years ago stands to attention and doesn't applaud. (Prince Charles and co are in the royal box, not looking their most comfortable ever...).
The concert hall, which we see at the start, stands in grim concrete isolation in a lifeless area. It's a bit different today, happily.
The programme is:
01. God Save The Queen
02. Scarlatti Sonata in A flat major K127
03. Scarlatti Sonata in F minor K466
04. Scarlatti Sonata in F minor K184
05. Scarlatti Sonata in A major K101
06. Scarlatti Sonata in B minor K87
07. Scarlatti Sonata in E major K135
08. Chopin Polonaise-Fantaisie Op.61
09. Chopin Ballade No.1 Op.23
10. Horowitz talks about himself
01. Schumann Kinderszenen Op.15
02. Rachmaninov Piano Sonata No.2 Op.36
03. Chopin Waltz Op.69-1
04. Rachmaninov Polka de W.R.
05. Scriabin Etude Op.8-12
Friday, June 28, 2013
Recorded live at Carnegie Hall on 26 November 1967, this is the kind of performance that proves that it ain't what you've got, it's what you do with it. Vladimir Horowitz had an extraordinary technique, but infinitely more vital than that was the brainpower, the imagination, behind it. That is the seat of true artistry, and to concentrate on the technical side of Horowitz is simply to miss the point: the vital spark was his capacity to reimagine the works he performed and take them to places - yet musically sincere ones, faithful to the composer - of which others can barely dream. As Martha Argerich said when I had my (one and only) interview with her: before you can make that sound, you must be able to imagine it. To that end, I've chosen today his live performance in 1967 of that masterpiece of abstract poetry, the Chopin Barcarolle.