Monday, February 27, 2012

Vladimir Horowitz and the Rachmaninoff Third - Truly a Way of Life...

On September 24, 1978, the great pianist Vladimir Horowitz, the conductor Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic performed one of the greatest of all piano concertos, the 3rd of Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Only one person in Avery Fisher Hall in New York on that September day knew that this performance would be the last time the pianist would perform the concerto publicly, along with a performance with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra that year - that person was Vladimir Horowitz.
It ended a fifty year love affair that the legendary pianist experienced with this work.
It began in 1928, when he and the composer played it together, with the composer playing the orchestral part on an adjoining Steinway in the Steinway Cellar in New York, shortly after the young Horowitz had met Rachmaninoff. This first encounter between the youthful lion of the piano, newly arrived from Europe, and the composer, prompted Rachmaninoff, who himself was one of the century's greatest pianists, to state "Horowitz swallowed my concerto whole," and vowed that he would no longer play this concerto publicly after hearing Horowitz play it that fateful day.
As the reputation of Horowitz spread quickly throughout the world, the pianist performed the concerto many times, recording it at different periods during his career.
Rachmaninoff kept his vow never to play the work again publicly - shortly before he passed away, he did record all of his concertos with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and along with a recording of his Variations on a Theme by Paganini, this series of recordings stands as testament to the towering pianist and composer who successfully thrust 19th century Romanticism forty three years into the 20th century before his passing.
Nevertheless, Rachmaninoff experienced a realization in his own music that Horowitz brought to the surface of reality that prompted him never to play this concerto again before an audience. What is it that Rachmaninoff heard? Perhaps the answer is best given to us by the author Hilton, who stated that "if a person were born totally deaf, and later given an hour of hearing, that hour might best be spent listening to Horowitz."

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