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Vladimir Horowitz. The Original Jacket edition
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Sonata No. 2 Op. 35
Etude Op. 10 No. 5 Black Key
Etude Op. 10 No. 12 Revolutionary
Etude Op. 10 No. 8
Ballade No. 1 Op. 23
Op. 25 No. 7
Scherzo Op. 1 No. 20
Mazurka Op. 17 No. 4
Introduction and Rondo Op. 16
Mazurka Op. 30 No. 4
Polonaise-Fantasie Op. 61
Waltz Op. 34 No. 2
Polonaise Op. 53
Sergei RACHMANONOV (1873-1943)

Etude-Tableau Op. 33 No. 2 Two versions
Etude-Tableau Op. 39 No. 5 Two versions
Etude-Tableau Op. 39 No. 9
Piano Sonata No. 2 Op. 36
Prelude Op. 32 No. 12
Moment musical Op. 16 No. 3
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Arabeske Op. 18
Kinderszenen Op. 15
Toccata Op. 7
Fantasy Op. 17
Encore; Traumerei from Kinderszenen
Variations on a theme by Clara Wieck from Sonata no. 3 Op. 14
Kreisleriana Op. 16
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)

Sonata K531 [L430]
Sonata K322 [L483]
Sonata K455 [L209]
Sonata K33 [L424]
Sonata K54 [L241]
Sonata K466 [L118]
Sonata K146 [L349]
Sonata K96 [L465]
Sonata K162 [L465]
Soanta K474 [L203]
Sonata K198 [L22]
Sonata K491 [L164]
Sonata K481 [l187]
Sonata K39 [L391]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Impromptu Op. 90 No. 3
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)

Feuillet d’album Op. 45 No. 1
Piano Sonata No. 9 Op. 68
Piano Sonata No. 10 Op. 70
Two Poemes Op. 69
Vers la flamme (Poème) Op. 72
Poème Op. 32 No. 1 Two versions
Etude Op. 2 No. 1 Two versions
Etude Op. 8 No. 2
Etude Op. 8 No. 8
Etude Op. 8 No. 10
Etude Op. 8 No. 11
Etude Op. 8 No. 12
Etude Op. 42 No. 3
Etude Op. 42 No. 4
Etude Op. 42 No. 5
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)

Etude Op. 72 No. 11
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Sonata No. 8 Op. 13 Pathetique
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Three Preludes Book 2
Les fees sont d’exquises danseuses
General Lavine – eccentric

Serenade for the Doll No. 3 from Children’s Corner
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Hungarian Rhapsody No. 19
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Organ Toccata BWV 564 arranged Busoni
Recorded 1962-72
SONY SX10K89765 [10 CDs: 427.43]


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Faced with such an extraordinary collection of the flammable and the flighty, one could hardly do other than register the inimitable singularity of Horowitz’s art. Absorbed into the bloodstream of this decade’s worth of recordings, these discs present one with limitless opportunities for ravishment and – yes – revulsion, adoration and abasement. How could one fail to admire his Scriabin and Scarlatti; how could one but grin at his perfumed Beethoven; how in microcosmic detail could one not feel oneself splintered by Horowitz’s own divided self. So many beautiful things, so many puzzling ones.

The above represents my own response to this collection of ten discs entirely replicating, in faithful detail, his LPs of 1962-72. Many doubtless will still be on the shelves and here they are in miniature in Sony’s Original Jacket Collection. Each LP has become a CD and my brief notes must stand for the totality of my response to recordings now thirty to forty years old. The Sound Of Horowitz gives us one of the greatest Kinderszenen there has been. Where does one start? The delicious rubati of Von fremden Ländern und Menschen, the measured sensitivity of Kuriose Geschichte, the capricious pointing of Hasche-Mann, the powerful depth of Wichtige Begebenheit, the truly affecting, entwined depth of Träumerei the sense, in short, that all is being swept up and engulfed in Horowitz’s razor sharp romantic responses. Then there is the powerful control of the Toccata. And Scriabin – the romantic insistence of the C sharp Etude Op. 2 no. 1, the marvellously passionate and declamatory D sharp minor. Horowitz plays Scarlatti is one of the great joys of the collection. He plays twelve sonatas and it’s impossible to choose one performance to exemplify his aesthetic. But let’s take the A minor, K54 [L241]. This is played with such pellucid beauty, such devastating subtlety, the left hand never for a moment subordinated, that one can – in the moment of listening - conceive of it no other way. His Scriabin disc is frequently incandescent. Vers la flamme (Poème) is an astonishing vortex of concentrated drama, the like of which one hears once in a generation. The Tenth Sonata is drenched in the minutest tonal lightening and colours and an intense directional pull (though there’s what sounds like a poor edit at 6.40 – not even Horowitz was perfect).

Of course the disappointments co-exist with the rarefied glory. His Pathétique Sonata is absurdly mannered and superficial. Who but Horowitz could animate the left hand in the Adagio cantabile with such inappropriate triviality? Who could be so staid, so finicky, so plain "wrong" in the Rondo finale? And yet what follows but Debussy – and one moves from distaste to beauty. I’ve not thought often of Horowitz as a Debussy pianist and that’s been my mistake. He plays Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses, Bruyères and General Lavine – eccentric from Book Two of the Preludes with capricious and glittering wit; scintillating. Of course there is Rachmaninov – the G sharp Prelude is grandiloquent and full of powerfully energised passion, the Etude-tableau in D major courses with leonine drama, the B flat sonata, the Second, a heroically impassioned landscape.

And of course, Chopin. His Polonaise-Fantasie has pertness and beauty and limpidity. The A minor Mazurka has a complex wistfulness, an interior depth and the Introduction and Rondo is marvellously pedalled – its deceptively benign opening soon gives way to some coruscating pianism – and utterly bejewelled. And to capture Horowitz in all his capricious sensitivity there is the A minor Waltz – supremely elegant playing. (There are moments, it’s true, when his Chopin takes on a rather lurid hue and I would sympathise with those who find him sometimes less than candidly expressive in this repertoire). Horowitz at Carnegie Hall – subtitled An Historic Return, marked his 1965 reappearance after years of exile from the concert stage. It starts with some rare Horowitz Bach, albeit hyphenated Busoni. And a little finger slip as well at the start of the Organ Toccata. His tone in the Intermezzo; adagio is simply gorgeous – no other word for it – and the withdrawn pointing of the Fuga memorable. When it comes to Schumann’s Fantasy there is no chordal hardness at all in the climaxes – even if it seems to me a less athletic reading than it could optimally have received. And in the Chopin Mazurka in C sharp Op 30/4 his rhythmic elasticity is seemingly endless as surely as his command of the first Ballade (G minor) is total. Here his devilry is accompanied by a searing clarity; by the time he reaches the concluding Presto con fuoco section his dramatically high octane pianism has turned molten.

Just some thoughts on the quixotic and extraordinary pianism contained here. In the unlikely event of some of these discs, or their reputation, remaining unknown to you I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this nostalgic, baffling, devastating, beautiful and frequently monstrously self-serving collection. In life and in death Horowitz has a way of bringing out the paradoxical.

Jonathan Woolf

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