Vladimir Horowitz - Return to Chicago (2015)

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Vladimir Horowitz - Return to Chicago (2015)

Vladimir Horowitz - Return to Chicago (2015)
Classical | MP3 320kbps CBR | 1 CD | 286 MB
Label: Deutsche Grammophon | Catalog Number: 002403702 | Rls.date: 6th Nov 2015

Vladimir Horowitz. Even more than twenty-five years after his death, his name still conjures up magical imagery. An artist of extraordinary pianistic abilities, Horowitz came to define an era, when performing artists put their personal stamp on everything they did. And Horowitz did it like no one else, before or since. This CD set is taken from one of those concerts, a recital from Orchestra Hall, Chicago, on October 26, 1986. Here we hear him in his element, before a live audience. We may not be able to attend a Horowitz recital anymore, but this is the next best thing - with a little imagination, we can become part of the audience ourselves, and it's just thrilling.
Horowitz performed in Chicago thirty-seven times in all, including twenty-seven solo recitals, starting in the year 1928. He was very popular there, and that popularity caused him to give repeat performances four times in the 1960s and 1970s, in order to reach as many patrons as possible. By 1986, he'd come up with perhaps a better plan: a concert that would be broadcast, as a gift to the city of Chicago. This concert marks the final time Horowitz played in Chicago.

Reviews: Vladimir Horowitz had a long and fulfilling relationship with the city of Chicago, performing there more often than any American city outside of the Northeast. For decades, he was close friends with Gitta Gradova, a pianist who lived in Chicago whose irreverence and humor appealed to Horowitz - he often stayed at Gradova's home instead of a hotel. Demand for tickets in Chicago was such that, from the 1960s onward, Horowitz would generally book two appearances whenever he played at Orchestra Hall - usually on consecutive Sundays. The October 26, 1986 concert on this CD, his last appearance in Chicago, was an exception. He booked only one appearance (perhaps because returning to Chicago reminded him that Gradova had passed away the previous year). Tickets were, of course, sold out within hours of them becoming available. As a consolation to those unable to get tickets, Horowitz allowed the local classical radio station, WFMT, to broadcast the recital gratis, as a gift to the city's music lovers. The pianist, of course, was well aware that copies would proliferate on the underground market, and that's exactly what happened - I've had a copy of this recital in my collection since 1995. Listening to this concert for the first time in several years was like a reunion with an old friend.

Horowitz plays exactly the same program he played on October 19, 1986 in Boston, a recital which I attended. Of course, Horowitz being the most spontaneous of musicians, there was always something new to hear in even the most familiar repertoire.

The concert opens with two Scarlatti Sonatas, both in E major, both played with imagination and dash. The opening phrase of K. 380 is played mezzo-piano, then repeated at piano, with each inflection intact - as if it were a perfect echo. In K. 185, the pearling runs in B major seem to flow from the piano like water from a sprinkler. Horowitz again proves that, under the right hands, Scarlatti's music "works" perfectly well on the modern piano.

The extended Mozart group includes the B minor Adagio K. 540, D major Rondo K. 485, and the C major Sonata K. 330. Despite his reputation as a Romantic pianist, Horowitz keeps the pace of the Adagio moving in a moderate fashion, with relatively few diversions in tempo. He adds a very minor embellishment just before the coda (and there is a brief memory lapse at 2:47). His rendition of the Rondo is taken at a brisker tempo than his studio recording, and he smoothes over some of the rhythmic "hiccups" that Mozart wrote into the piece - but his use of pacing and inflection allows the surprise cadence near the end to sound truly surprising. The Sonata is livelier than the version recorded in his home in 1985, and a bit more polished than the Moscow version - making this the most successful of Horowitz's recordings of the piece.

Horowitz includes two of Scriabin's most popular Etudes, Op. 2, No. 1 in C-sharp minor, and Op. 8, No. 12 in D-sharp minor, which he'd also played in Moscow six months prior. The C-sharp minor, composed when Scriabin was only 14, is played with pathos and introspection, with the inner-voices brought to the fore during the main theme's forte restatement. The D-sharp minor is played a bit cleaner than at Horowitz's Moscow concert, starting at mezzo-piano and building up to a climax that's truly stunning.

Schumann's Arabeske, Op. 18, was a friend of Horowitz's throughout his career. He recorded it numerous times from the 1930s onward, both in studio and live. I don't think any pianist, even Rubinstein, was able to match the legato (achieved without pedal) that Horowitz brought to this piece, nor the sense of longing during the minor key melody and the sense of farewell in the coda.

Liszt Sonetto del Petrarca is given in manner rich with sonorous climaxes and autumnal poetry.

Horowitz seems to have fallen in love with the Schubert-Liszt Soirees de Vienne No. 6. He played it at every one of his recitals from his return in Paris in 1985 until his last concert in Hamburg in 1987. The waltzing lilt is simply irresistible - and inimitable, judging by recorded attempts of other pianists.

Horowitz included music of Chopin in nearly all of his recitals throughout his career, and this is no exception. The two Mazurkas - Op. 63, No. 3 in C-sharp minor and Op. 7, No. 3 in F minor - are noteworthy for their flexible tempos, imaginative balancing of inner voices, and subtle melancholy. Incidentally, this was the last time he played the C-sharp minor in public.

Horowitz ends the recital proper with Chopin's B minor Scherzo, for decades one of his specialties. Despite a brief tangle in a thorny passage, the old lion turns in a compelling rendition, ending in the interlocking octaves for which he was so famous - perhaps a bit slower here, but with biting impact.

There are encores, of course. Schumann's Traumerai, which was a Horowitz staple, and Moskowski's Etincelles, in which the sparks are more glowing than flickering. Perhaps the 83 year old pianist was tired - still better than I could play it on my best day.

It's a bit perplexing that DG has titled this CD "Return to Chicago", as he'd played there only three years previously. Wouldn't a more appropriate title have been "The Last Chicago Recital" or "Chicago Farewell"? Whatever the title, producer Jon Samuels has done an excellent job restoring the analog master tapes (the announcer narration that accompanied the broadcast has been removed). The recording accurately reproduces the octogenarian Horowitz's sonority, far mellower than the rather garish voicing he favored in the 1970s. As a bonus, there are two interviews where Horowitz speaks of his affection for Chicago "the people, the hall, everything".

Tracklist:

Disc: 1
1. Scarlatti: Sonata in E major, K. 380
2. Scarlatti: Sonata in E major, K. 135
3. Mozart: Adagio in B minor, K. 540
4. Mozart: Rondo in D major, K. 485
5. Mozart: Sonata in C major, K. 330
6. Mozart: Sonata in C major, K. 330
7. Mozart: Sonata in C major, K. 330
8. Scriabin: Etude in C sharp minor, op. 2 no. 1
9. Scriabin: Etude in D sharp minor, op. 8 no. 12

Disc: 2
1. Schumann: Arabesque in C major, op. 18
2. Liszt: Sonetto 104 del Petrarca
3. Liszt: Soirée de Vienne no. 6
4. Chopin: Mazurka in C sharp minor, op. 63 no. 3
5. Chopin: Mazurka in F minor, op. 7 no. 3
6. Chopin: Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, op. 20
7. Schumann: Träumerei, op. 15 no. 7
8. Moszkowski: Etincelles, op. 36 no. 6
9. Horowitz Interview with Norman Pellegrini
10. HoroInterview with Thomas Willis
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