Recordings Taken From The Horowitz Papers At Yale University
Perhaps the mightiest and most influential of all pianists of the twentieth century, Vladimir Horowitz left the world a matchless catalog of recordings—a Masterworks legacy that is renewed with this second release of private recordings from the archives of Yale University. The Private Collection: Schumann, Chopin, Liszt & Balakirev captures Horowitz in his golden prime, playing his signature repertoire live in concert at Carnegie Hall, where he celebrated the milestones in his storied career. This collection is the latest release in Sony Masterworks’ Carnegie Hall Presents series and is available on September 1, 2009.
This release features performances of Schumann’s Fantasy in C Major, Op. 17; Balakirev’s Islamey: An Oriental Fantasy; Chopin’s Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60; and Liszt’s Légende, No. 2, “St. François de Paule merchant sur les flots.”
In 1986 Horowitz donated to Yale University a treasure trove of private recordings composed of Carnegie Hall concerts and performances he gave during the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. Horowitz had employed an engineer to make 78-rpm recordings of his Carnegie Hall concerts in this period, and he used them to review and judge his performances. Most of these mono recordings were originally contained on 12- and 16-inch acetate discs. They have been impeccably mastered, with the sound restored, from new transfers made in the Yale archives. Significant press accompanied the original announcement of the donation of these recordings to Yale, where Horowitz performed often through the years and was an assistant fellow of Silliman College.
Classical-music lovers—from the sternest music critics to the most ardent fans—have often lamented the gaps in Horowitz’s performing career, hiatuses that deprived the classical music world of one of its most enchanting performers. This second release in Sony Masterworks’s new Vladimir Horowitz Private Collection series allows listeners to revisit the pianist at the height of his powers, in beguiling performances that must be heard to be believed. Performances that were once lost to history, only to be conjured through old newspaper reviews, come thrillingly back to life in this newly remastered edition.
The release includes four works that take the listener deep into the heart of the Romantic age. Horowitz handles Schumann’s Fantasy in C Major, Op. 17 with passion and precision, bringing the piece to an inexorable finish in the final movement, in one perfectly calculated musical moment. His playing of Liszt’s evocative musical meditation, Légende, No. 2, “St. François de Paule merchant sur les flots” (St. Francis of Paola walking on waves) is expertly judged and immaculately executed; he marries together the trademark impishness of the composer’s virtuoso writing with the work’s profoundly religious subject matter. Horowitz dispatches the breathtaking steeplechase of Mily Balakirev’s Islamey—one of the most demanding pieces ever written for solo piano—with the ease and control of an Olympic athlete. On the other side of the musical spectrum, Chopin’s calm, lilting Barcarolle, Op. 60, receives an expansive musical treatment—each line is like the long, slow, methodical stroke of a gondolier’s oar dividing peaceful waters.
Born in Kiev in 1903, Vladimir Horowitz received early instruction on the piano from his mother, before studying with Sergei Tarnowsky and Felix Blumenfeld at the Kiev Conservatory, where he performed Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 for his graduation in 1919. By the time he was twenty-one, he had toured Russia and found particular success with a series of concerts in Leningrad. His American debut at Carnegie Hall on January 12, 1928 was an eagerly awaited event. He married Toscanini’s daughter Wanda in 1933 and became a U.S. citizen in 1944. Horowitz’s specialty was the stormy, fearsome literature of the Romantic era—Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Chopin—though he gave bracing performances of Clementi and Beethoven and championed the work of Scriabin and Prokofiev. He electrified audiences with his prodigious technique, from thundering fortissimos and floating pianissimos to lightning-fast octaves executed in perfect alignment. He remained a dominant force in music until his death in 1989, establishing a legacy as one of the most supremely gifted pianists of all time.