Thursday, September 17, 2009

Leni Riefenstahl and Vladimir Horowitz - The Triumph of the Will?

During the halcyon days of Adolf Hitler, the tyrant commissioned the immensely gifted Leni Riefenstahl to produce two documentaries; one was a complete filming of the 1936 Olympics, the other, one of the great documentaries of the 20th century, titled "Triumph of the Will", which emerges as the most profound encomium ever bestowed upon the man who ultimately cost the world many millions of lives.
I could not help but consider the title of this documentary as one which may very well apply to the legendary Russian pianist Vladimir Horowitz.
Throughout most of his career Horowitz was beset by the devils of a fear of playing before audiences; obviously baseless to us, as he was supreme in his position as one of the greatest pianists of all time. I have already written about Horowitz and his devils, including the several times he was forced to "retire" in order to regain enough control, each time, over his devils, so that he could return to performing. What is absolutely riveting is the ultimate victory he achieved, however temporary, in order to continue to dazzle his audiences throughout the world after returning from each "retirement".
In the most recent recordings; namely, those now being released twenty years after his death by Yale and the Carnegie Hall recordings which he made between 1945 and 1950 only for his own pleasure and not for release during that period, we are hearing the magic promulgated, it seems to me, by a combination of the illimitable talent, the titanic battle he waged against Fear, and, ultimately, the Triumph of the Will.
This Horowitzian Trinity is what Horowitz was and is - without any one of the three realities of his entity, there may very well not have been the Horowitz that we have known.
Just listen to the recently released performance of the "Islamey" of Balakirev, which Horowitz learned and kept for only one year, 1950, when this recording was made.
The veritably "out-of-body" level of indescribable excitement, always under control, in this performance, represents a kind of super- being giving us an experience we veritably refuse to believe can be - but is. One can speculate ad infinitum about the reasons for the unique combination of incomparable brilliance with that kind of neurotic edge which we hear only in a Horowitz performance - for me, it all comes out of that Trinity I attribute to why Horowitz exists as we have known him.



Blogger Michael said...

Interesting argument. Horowitz had the steel and the velvet and somehow fused them. You might find my Horowitz youtubes interesting - lots of "pirates" from live playing:

October 6, 2009 at 3:30 PM  

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