Like so many instrumentalists and conductors, there is often a burning inner desire to compose and a frustration that no recognition is often given when works are forthcoming. Whoever wanted to hear Horowitz's compositions when we all wanted to hear his Chopin, Liszt or Rachmaninov? So all the more credit to Valery Kuleshov for producing this CD containing either transcriptions of the works of others or a few gems by the master pianist himself. All the more credit to Kuleshov for managing to write out the Liszt Hungarian March No.19 and the familiar Mendelssohn extract by ear from gramophone records as the music did not exist in printed form. Horowitz got to hear his playing and not only sanctioned all the hard work but also offered tuition. Regrettably he died (aged 85) on the night in 1989 that his new pupil was due to leave for Russia for his first lesson.
This is all colourful music, glittering and naturally virtuosic, most of it the stuff of encores after a more cerebral recital. It is all very clever and fascinating paraphrasing and comes from another era, the sort of 19th century musical jumping through a hoop, itself an offshoot of challenging organists at the end of their recitals to improvise on a theme submitted by a member of the audience. Horowitz's own music is alternately elegant, brooding, and witty while generally it owes much to the pianist/composers of his day, for example the tongue-in-cheek Cakewalk (Dance excentrique) cocks a snook at Debussy but in the most charmingly deferential of ways. The Danse macabre paints a vivid picture of the dramatic events, all of them there from rattling skeletons to crowing cocks, while Horowitz's own highly romantic and somewhat naïve Les Vagues is a nice little thank you present to his own teacher Tarnowsky with whom he studied during the First World War in Kiev. The disc ends with a cheerful and highly rousing account of Sousa's famous march which would have had many an audience on their feet at the end, especially in America.
Which leaves Valery Kuleshov himself, in danger of being overshadowed by the many composers here and of course by Horowitz himself. Not a bit of it for his pianism is both technically extraordinary and his virtuosity much in the mould of his idol. This is fine playing and a highly worthy disc too.