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
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.