Sunday, July 29, 2018

Horowitz and the Rachmaninoff 3rd Piano Concerto - an Odyssey Unequaled...

In 1978, the  celebrated piano titan Vladimir Horowitz, then in his mid seventies, and Zubin Mehta, the distinguished conductor, collaborated  in a performance of the 3rd piano concerto by Rachmaninoff. There was but one person in that hall who knew that this would be his final public performance of this monumental work - and that person was the pianist.
Fortunately, that performance was recorded, and therefore the recording is a document that will forever be a testament to the pianist in more than one way. To explain:
Fifty years before, the composer, already well established as  both the creator of a  number of masterpieces, as well  as one of the world's great pianists,  and this young  lion named Vladimir Horowitz, who had just a few days before arrived in America, carrying with him a reputation as a pianist of astounding powers, met in New York. Circumstance led them both to Steinway Hall, where they selected two pianos in the cellar. Rachmaninoff had known that the young Horowitz knew and had performed the concerto in Europe, and he suggested that  Horowitz play the solo part while he would do the orchestral reduction on his piano of choice.
History tells us the result; namely, that Rachmaninoff 's  famous statement after this incident; specifically "he swallowed my composition whole,"  was certification of the coming bond between these two men. They became veritably father-son until the passing of the composer in 1943. By the way, Rachmaninoff vowed never to play that concerto publicly again after hearing Horowitz play it that fateful day.
So, a fifty year Odyssey became a reality, during which Horowitz would give to his world a lexicon of performances of this knuckle-buster - which finally ends with the 1978 performance.
Horowitz made several recordings of the 3rd during that fateful fifty year period, some of which are, in my view, staggeringly  powerful statements  of one of the  reigning pieces in this form.
In the 1978 recording, the prodigious technique of Horowitz was  already beginning to falter - the Inevitable had begun. However, the unique Message of Statement remained totally intact, and the unique legacy of father-son is there from beginning to end  - a truly great recording, which is simply through the Horowitz recordings of the concerto a statement of the sublime chemistry formed by these two men...

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