Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Recording That Is The Apotheosis Representing the Power of the Horowitz Presence? Read On...

I was one of the fortunate who saw the legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz live in recital at least twenty times. The first encounter with his presence was as a child taken by his father around age 9 or 10. The final time was as a faculty member of the Longy School, with a couple of my students, in  an auditorium  in Western Massachusetts.
Of all the great artists I have seen and heard throughout my life experience, none has left me with a more vivid remembrance of what human genius can bestow upon the consciousness as did Horowitz.
That combination of illimitable forms and shapes of expression and statement in cohabitation with a pyrotechnique,  projected by way of that unique neurotic edge that was his, and his alone, invariably  left me limp and  strangely exhilarated at the same time. After that final encore, the  atmosphere was more akin to being at a football game than an encounter with an artist - just listen to audience reaction in the recordings he left after a live performance.
The  magic he gives us in the many recordings available  constitutes  proof of his position in music history, of course; however, that indefinable magic of being in the same room with him during a performance can never be given us in a recording.
One recording that , in my view, comes as close to being in his actual presence is the 1951  release of his transcription of the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 15, the Rakoczy (Rakoczi) March. That tune had been the informal form of  national anthem of Hungary for some time after its appearance around 1730, before the present anthem was installed. This theme was a reflection, it seems, of the Hungarian tragedy which prevailed during the Habsburg period in Austria, and the original composition best defines the militantism and anger of the Hungarian experience; that Call-to-Arms, as it were. And Horowitz, in his transcription, magnifies the power of that experience.
It just so happens that this recording captures that steely Horowitzian sound wonderfully well, enhanced by one of the Russian pianist's most overwhelming  performances at the height of his powers.
It's almost like having been there...                           

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