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Monday, April 10, 2017

Vladimir Horowitz plays Liszt


Composer: Franz Liszt

CD1: CBS Studio Recordings and Horowitz's Return to Carnegie Hall
  1. Consolation, S. 172: No. 2 in E major
  2. Hungarian Rhapsodies, S. 244: No. 19 in D minor
  3. Scherzo and March, S. 177
  4. Années de pèlerinage I - Suisse, S. 160: 6. Vallée d'Obermann
  5. Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178
  6. Années de pèlerinage I - Suisse, S. 160: 4. Au bord d'une source
  7. Valses oubliées, S. 215: No. 1 in F-sharp major
CD2: The Last Decade
  1. Consolation, S. 172: No. 3 in D-flat major
  2. Mephisto Waltz No. 1 (Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke), S. 514
  3. Ballade No. 2 in B minor, S. 171
  4. Soirées de Vienne, S. 427: No. 6 in A minor (Valse caprice d'apres Schubert)
  5. Années de pèlerinage II - Italie, S. 161: 5. Sonetto 104 del Petrarca
  6. Valses oubliées, S. 215: No. 1 in F-sharp major
  7. Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, S. 179 (Prelude in F minor after J.S. Bach)
  8. Isolde's Liebestod, S. 447 (from R. Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde")
CD3: Horowitz at Carnegie Hall – Early Live Recordings
  1. Hungarian Rhapsodies, S. 244: No. 6 in D-flat major
  2. Hungarian Rhapsodies, S. 244: No. 2 in C-sharp minor (arr. Horowitz)
  3. Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178: Lento assai - ... - Recitativo -
  4. Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178: Andante sostenuto - Quasi Adagio -
  5. Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178: Allegro energico - ... - Lento assai
  6. Consolation, S. 172: No. 4 in D-flat major
  7. Consolation, S. 172: No. 5 in E major
  8. Valses oubliées, S. 215: No. 1 in F-sharp major
CD4: Early Studio Recordings
  1. Valses oubliées, S. 215: No. 1 in F-sharp major
  2. Études d'exécution transcendante d'après Paganini, S. 140:  No. 2 in E-flat major (Paganini's Caprice No. 17)
  3. Hungarian Rhapsodies, S. 244: No. 6 in D-flat major
  4. Années de pèlerinage II - Italie, S. 161: 5. Sonetto 104 del Petrarca
  5. Années de pèlerinage I - Suisse, S. 160: 4. Au bord d'une source
  6. Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S. 173: 7. Funérailles (in F minor)
  7. Danse macabre, S. 555 (Saint-Saens' Op. 40)
  8. Wedding March and Fairies Dance, S. 410 (from Mendelssohn's "Midsummer Night's Dream")
  9. Hungarian Rhapsodies, S. 244: No. 15 in A minor "Rakoczy March"
  10. Valses oubliées, S. 215: No. 1 in F-sharp major

Vladimir Horowitz, piano
Date: 1930- 1989
Label: Sony Classical



To commemorate Liszt’s 200th birthday year, this release gathers together all of Vladimir Horowitz’s Liszt recordings controlled by the Sony/BMG group and previously issued by RCA, CBS, and Sony in a four-disc collection. Each disc covers a specific period of Horowitz’s recording career, such as “The Last Decade”, “Horowitz at Carnegie Hall–Early Live Recordings”, and “Early Studio Recordings”.

Though Disc 1 is entitled “CBS Studio Recordings and Horowitz’s Return to Carnegie Hall”, the Scherzo & March and B minor sonata respectively stem from Queens College in New York and St. Louis’ Powell Hall. More importantly however, the recordings trace Horowitz’s Liszt from his early 1930 RCA Victor sessions to merely days before his sudden death from a heart attack at age 86. Horowitz’s Liszt interpretations are multi-leveled in their fusion of power, poetry, theatricality, and intimacy, even when the playing is variable.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, for example, Horowitz entered a mannered period, as his dynamic yet cramped and convoluted Mephisto Waltz No. 1 and Ballade No. 2 bear out. Neither B minor sonata completely satisfies. The recently unearthed 1947 live Carnegie Hall reading oozes with daring and imagination but doesn’t match the coherent unity of the 1932 HMV recording (available from EMI and APR), and also contains a 22-bar cut beginning at the 3/2 measure marked Pesante (page 16 of the Kalmus edition score). By contrast, the uncut 1976 Liszt Sonata suffers from pianistic loose ends in the form of wrong and missed notes, pounded-out climaxes, and cautious octaves. In fairness, Horowitz’s subsequent Liszt Sonata performances the following season grew increasingly assured and accurate.

Everyone’s written about the 1930 Paganini Etude’s thunderous descending interlocking octaves, yet no one has mentioned the fact that Horowitz drops beats. Nevertheless, rhythmic precision and canny timing impart character and thrust throughout virtuoso showpieces like the Hungarian Rhapsodies (Nos. 2, 15, and 19 feature the pianist’s dazzlingly elaborate textural emendations), the Scherzo & March, and Horowitz’s scintillating retooling of Liszt’s Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre and Mendelssohn Wedding March transcriptions.

Among the five versions of Valse Oubliée No. 1, I prefer the live 1975 performance’s playful dynamic inflections at the beginning and slightly greater expressive leeway in softer passages. But as much as I admire the 1951 studio Petrarch Sonnet No. 104’s nervous intensity, the generally more expansive live 1986 version boasts no less hair-raising climaxes (the 82-year-old pianist could still shake out stunning octaves when so inclined).

Jeremy Siepmann’s balanced and perceptive annotations do full and frank justice to the Horowitz/Liszt connection. Sony/BMG’s transfers appear identical to those in the complete Horowitz Original Jacket Collection. In short, Horowitz collectors already may have much, most, or all of this material, but novices wishing to explore Horowitz’s Liszt in depth won’t go wrong.

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday

More reviews:


Franz Liszt (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a prolific 19th-century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, arranger, organist, philanthropist, author, nationalist and a Franciscan tertiary. Liszt gained renown in Europe for his virtuosic skill as a pianist and in the 1840s he was considered to be the greatest pianist of all time. As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent composers of the "New German School". Some of his most notable musical contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in musical form, and making radical departures in harmony.


Vladimir Horowitz (October 1 [O.S. September 18] 1903 – November 5, 1989) was a Russian-born American classical pianist and composer. He was acclaimed for his virtuoso technique, his tone color, and the excitement engendered by his playing. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of all time. Horowitz is best known for his performances of the Romantic piano repertoire. Though his performances were frequently criticized for their willfulness and self-indulgent nature, there was an undeniable charisma to his playing that endeared him to most everyone who heard him.


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