Schubert sonatas

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Horowitz in Moscow

Sonata in B minor L33
Sonata in E major L23
Sonata in E major L224
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Sonata No.10 in C major K330
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Prelude in G major Op.32 No.5
Prelude in G sharp minor Op.32 No.12
Alexander SCRIABIN (1873-1916)

Etude in C sharp minor
Etude in D sharp minor Op.8 No.12
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Impromptu in B flat major D935
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Valse caprice No.6 from Soirées de Vienne after Schubert
Sonetto 104 del Petrarca
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Mazurka in C sharp minor Op.30 No.4
Mazurka in F minor Op.7 No.3
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Traumerei from Kinderszenen Op.15

Étincelles from Morceaux caractéristiques Op.36 No.6
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Polka de W.R.
Vladimir Horowitz (piano)
Recorded in Moscow in 1986
No encoding information provided. Directed by Brain Large.
SONY DVD SVD 64545 [104:00]

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.

Jonathan Woolf



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