Horowitz’s return to
Russia after an absence of just over
sixty years is commemorated in this
film which makes its first appearance
on DVD. I’m sure many will remember
it from television showings over the
years. Its award winning status is richly
confirmed in this new edition, unchanged
and unaugmented by any bonus features.
The film captures the
clamour of the audience, their raptness,
the occasional weeping – most affecting
– in Träumerei, and Horowitz’s
visit to the Scriabin Museum where he
plays the composer’s piano and meet
Scriabin’s daughter. She introduces
herself to him in French. We also see
Horowitz, muffled against the climate,
wandering around his childhood haunts
and admitting that this would be the
last chance to meet his family before
he died. We hear from an edited interview
with him during the concert interval
– one recorded during his visit.
The hall was full of
course but party functionaries who bagged
most of the tickets were augmented by
students, who refused to budge when
requested to leave. There were two hundred
of them in the balcony. They watched
a performance of characteristic and
unrepeatable magnetism. The Scarlatti,
bejewelled but evocative, and reflective
of his best Scarlatti playing is followed
by a Mozart Sonata of teasing brilliance,
personalised and full of fulsome rubati.
The Rachmaninov and Scriabin before
the interval are compounded of flair,
colouristic majesty and rare insight
and the Schubert, Liszt and Chopin after
it a roll-call of his artistry at its
most involved if still controversial.
The feathery articulation and lightness
of the Liszt Valse caprice is
an exquisite delight.
Camera angles are simple
but effective, many from the pianist’s
left side, with a view of the spellbound
audience beyond, many clutching opera
glasses; especially effective are the
panning shots and the on stage cameraman
who films the pianist as he bows and
leaves the stage, handkerchief waving.
I have to admit some
disappointment with the DVD however.
You need to search long and hard for
the name of the director, who was Brian
Large – it’s at the bottom of the box
– and there’s no encoding information.
Unless you knew Horowitz was talking
to Scriabin’s daughter you wouldn’t
otherwise know from the unhelpful, pretty
non-existent editing. Parts of the interviewing
and the Horowitz walkabout are in fact
messy and should have been tightened
up and properly captioned. The performances
captured throughout the film, however,
are gigantic in the extreme.