Friday, 8 April 2011

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, April 2011)


Complete Deutsche Grammophon Recordings / DG 477 8827 (7 CDs)/ *****

In the Indian summer of his long career, the Ukraine-born piano virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) undertook a series of studio and “live” recordings on the German yellow label. Long gone was the fire-breathing diablerie of his 1930-50s performances, in its place an autumnal but no less quirky relook of the works which defined his art. One of the highlights is the 1985 recording of Schumann’s Kreisleriana, a fantasy in eight movements which showed that his powers of musical storytelling were gratefully undimmed.

The music of Schubert was a beneficiary; seldom has his Sonata in B flat major (D.960) resounded with such aching nostalgia. A selection of his Impromptus and transcriptions (Marche Militaire No.1, Serenade and Valse Caprices) are inimitable echt-Horowitz. New to his discography were three Mozart sonatas (K.281, 330 and 333) and his first ever Mozart concerto recording, Piano Concerto No.23 with the La Scala Orchestra conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini. He was no natural Mozartean but his directness is appealing, even persuasive. In addition to the legendary 1986 return-to-Moscow recital, this new budget box-set also includes his recently-released final 1987 Hamburg recital. Simply unmissable.

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