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Mieczyslaw Horszowski (piano)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major op. 15 (1800) [36:00] ¹
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Piano Concerto in A minor (1822) [34:19] ²
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No.7 in D major Op.10 No.3 (1797-8) – Menuetto [2:21] ³
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Klavierstücke Op.119
No.1 Intermezzo in B minor [3:32]; Intermezzo [1:29] ³
Mieczyslaw Horszowski (piano)
Omroep Kamerorkest/Mauritz van der Berg, rec. 19 January 1958 ¹
Musica Aeterna/Frederic Waldman, rec. 24 February 1962 ²
Test recordings, made in Sao Paolo, Brazil c.1949 ³
ARBITER 154 [78:02]
Experience Classicsonline

Horszowski made his debut in Warsaw playing the C major Beethoven Concerto; he was ten. He was to leave behind two recorded performances. The first came in 1953 with Casals at Prades and this second one. Only recently discovered, it derives from a Dutch concert in 1958, fifty-six years after the pianist’s first performance of it in Warsaw in 1902.

Allan Evans notes in the booklet to this release that the first movement of the Casals performance was marred by a too rapid tempo. No such disagreements occur here where Horszowski is teamed with Mauritz van der Berg. One acknowledges the hissy sonics. But once past that one can but defer to the pliancy and fluency of the pianist’s phrasing, his multi-variegated tonal reserves and resources, his deft passagework. The cantabile nobility of the slow movement is an especial treat to hear with expressive bounds always observed; the naturalness, the vocalised freedom of expression are all superbly rendered. So too is the high-spirited finale, incisively done and wittily too; the winds play aptly and well throughout. If one considers the relatively recently issued live performance of this concerto given by Cortot [Tahra] one can immediately note that whilst Horszowski’s performance teems with buoyancy and warmth Cortot is fitful and rather peevish; the difference between an adept in this repertoire and one to whom the C major was something of a foreign field.

Coupled with the C major is the youthful A minor Concerto by Mendelssohn.  Horszowski first performed this little known work in Switzerland in 1961 though it stayed in his repertoire for only a year. Arbiter’s performance was privately taped by the conductor Frederic Waldman in February 1962. We have Waldman’s foresight to thank for a number of invaluable survivals – and Arbiter to thank for issuing them. I think especially of the Erica Morini discs but there are others that are very strongly recommended.

In more recent times pianists such as Ogdon, Staier and Brautigam have ventured into this repertoire but Horszowski’s curiosity, aged seventy-nine, was really something. The sound is pretty good here, with minimal scratches but some expected hiss. The piano tone is clear and true, and we can hear the solo violin and cello lines nicely. Even in the more derivative right hand patterns of the slow movement Horszowski keeps things warmly textured and alive; note the left hand staccati as well and the central contrastive section whish is pointed with youthful panache. The puckish dance of the finale is enacted with vigour, crisp accenting and by the time of the cadenza we experience once more the full torrent of the Polish pianist’s wit, eloquence and control.

As if this were not enough there are three other valuable things here. Private test recordings capture valuable examples of Brahms – two pieces from Klavierstücke Op.119 and the Menuetto from Beethoven’s Op.10 No.3 sonata – all recorded c.1949 in steely, scuffy but serviceable sound.

Needless to say this is an essential purchase for Horszowski’s legion of admirers – rare survivals lovingly restored.

Jonathan Woolf




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