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Vladimir Horowitz - Pictures At An Exhibition and eight Other Favourites
Original mono recordings: 1942-1951
Vladimir HOROWITZ (1904-1989)

Variations on a Theme from Bizet's Carmen (1926) [3.32]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Funérailles S173 (1849) [10.23]
Rákóczy March - Hungarian Rhapsody No.15 (arranged Horowitz) [5.08]
Valse Oubliée No. 1 (1881) [2.50]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1810-1849)

A Midsummer Night's Dream Wedding March and Variations (arranged Liszt, revised Horowitz) Op.61 (1842) [6.01]
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)

Pictures At An Exhibition (arranged. Horowitz) (1874) [29.36]
By The Water (arranged Horowitz) from Sunless, song cycle (1874) [3.58]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Danse Macabre Op.40 (arranged Liszt, revised Horowitz) (1874) [8.10]
John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)

The Stars And Stripes Forever (arranged Horowitz) (1897) [3.54]
Vladimir Horowitz (piano)
Recorded New York, 1942-51


Not so long ago I reviewed the Heiftez release in Living Era Classic’s pot-pourri selections – other players include Rubinstein, Casals, Paderewski and Kreisler and amongst conductors Weingartner, Stokowski, Walter, Constant Lambert et al. They’re not quite the commonplace compilations you might imagine from the somewhat generic typeface and "cosy charm" look. Someone has clearly gone to some trouble to compile reasonable and cogent programmes that will appeal principally to the generalist but which will also appeal, at least to a degree, to the more committed listener.

This one for instance is devoted to Horowitz’s arrangements, revisions, variations, and adaptations. The recordings derive from a nine-year period either side of the Petrillo ban and they include some of his best-known recital and encore fodder, as well as his cataclysmic Pictures At An Exhibition arrangement. This may not be as molten or as volcanic as the later live Carnegie Hall performance but for a studio performance it’s positively sizzling. Of contemporaries probably only Richter lashed into it with anything like comparable adrenalin, and then Richter never essayed Horowitz’s edition, which I’m not aware has even been published. Russian Aristocrats such as Moiseiwitsch, who recorded the more properly encountered edition at around the same time, and with conspicuous excellence, must have looked on aghast at Horowitz’s battery of reinforcements, extensions and bell chime excesses; the Great Gate resonates with typhonic force and the galvanic effect of this is not far short of incendiary. Not having heard the studio performance I was prepared for lesser voltage but it sent shock waves out of my speakers half way down the road and left me floundering in heart-bursting, vein-popping after-burners of sheer exultation.

There’s nothing else quite as exhaustingly magnificent as this – if only because the other pieces are more concentrated. His own Bizet variations are swaggering and saucy, whilst his Saint-Saëns has a brilliant fugal section. His Mendelssohn features roulades of spun brilliance and his Liszt tends to incinerate lesser rivals. In this kind of mood only a fellow incendiary pianist such as Barere could survive the comparison. The chordal flourishes of the Rákóczy March are triumphant and blistering. To finish we have the gloriously camp Sousa.

As a collection of Horowitz’s own arrangements from his prime these are brilliant documents. The virtuosity is unremitting, the transfers good, the notes rather generalised. To be taken with a glass of vodka, straight, no ice.

Jonathan Woolf


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