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Mieczyslaw HORSZOWSKI
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

French Suite No. 6, BWV 817 [16:15]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Piano Sonata in F, Op. 10, No. 2 [17:14]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Papillons, Op. 2 [15:18]
Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9, No. 2 [4:24]
Impromptu in F sharp minor, Op. 36 [6:01}
Waltz in C sharp minor, Op.64, no. 2 [3:31]
Scherzo in B minor, Op. 20 [10:03]
Etude in F minor, Op. 25, No. 2 [1:57]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Träumerei [2:33]
Mieczyslaw Horszowski (piano)
Recorded live in concert at Londonís Wigmore Hall, 21 June 1990 ADD
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4122-2 [78:15]

 

At the time of this performance, the legendary Mieczyslaw Horszowski was a staggering 98 years old. Rare it is indeed that an artistís career lasts his entire life. Rarer still does such a life last so long. Horszowski played a rather demanding recital on his 100th birthday, and lived to see a couple more anniversaries. And although the critics give many artists critical liberties as they enter their twilight years, there was no need to go easy on this one. His playing was as elegant and expressive at 98 as it was at 58. What an astounding recital this is, and we must be nothing but grateful to Misha Donat for preserving it for us, and for the BBC making it available to a worldwide audience.

Opening with Bachís sixth French Suite, we are treated to playing so fine it is almost therapeutic. Every contrapuntal line is played like an aria performed by the finest singer. Nothing is ever rushed for display à la Glenn Gould. Rather, the music unfolds before us as if it was specified in the book of nature that it had to be exactly thus. That is certainly not to say that Maestro Horszowski is without the ability to impress; he simply chooses to let this elegant music speak for itself.

Beethovenís early sonata is played with both classical restraint and with muscle where appropriate. His witty, understated manner with the giant of Bonn is a delight. Although his Beethoven is masterful, it is perhaps in Chopin that Horszowski shines brightest. The oft-hackneyed E-flat nocturne is brought to life like a fine actor would read a sonnet. Romantic? Yes. Syrupy and overly sentimental? No. The monstrous first Scherzo is a wonder to behold. The outlay of strength that is evidenced in this performance is breathtaking, and must have been exhausting for a man nearly a century old.

Schumannís very early Papillons are perfect little crystal miniatures, and Mr. Horszowski takes each delightful figurine off the shelf to show it off for us, and then puts them back on display in their exact places.

In short, this recital is a feast of wonders, and no lover of great music-making, regardless of his taste for piano music, will want to miss this. Simply to hear a man of this kind of depth of experience who is still at the height of his powers so late in life is an experience that even a casual listener will find interesting if not completely remarkable.

Sound quality is excellent; program notes are thorough and interesting. Donatís tribute to the great master is touching and poignant. A must have. Do not miss it.

Kevin Sutton

 

 



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