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Horowitz on Horowitz on Horowitz on Horowitz: A Recantation


  1. Gary Chapman says:

    I have always believed that Horowitz sounds more like Lang Lang than any of the Russian pianist’s adherents would like to admit…In that part of Liszt piano music that requires impulsive virtuoso gypsy fiddling, they are both ideal proponents, eccentricities and all. Although they are from completely different eras and backgrounds, they both strike me as arriving at the same place. In late Liszt, a bad thing, in most Liszt, a good thing. Gulp!
    Things like the Concord Sonata or the Debussy Etudes would appear to be safe from harm.

  2. I had a similar semi-conversion to Horowitz, having always been far more receptive to Arrau’s conceptions, who is the Russian’s antipode and is to Horowitz what Furtwangler is to Toscanini (not for nothing is Arrau sometimes referred to as the Furtwangler of the keyboard, and not coincidentally these latter are my favorite pianist and conductor, respectively, towering by miles and miles above all others). Nevertheless, the older I get, seemingly paradoxically, the more open I am to different interpretations and styles of performance. Of course, I still have my favorites, but I try to find whatever felicities there are to be found in any musician’s interpretations (yes, even those of a HIP bent, though most of the time PPP induces nausea and revulsion). As for Horowitz, specifically, he could do a few things very well. For me, he was especially adept at milking the “achingly beautiful” inflection in pieces like “Kinderszenen”, a few Scarlatti sonatas, and a few of the Schubert impromptus. I find him at his best when he is most sensitive, quiet, delicate. Maybe, I dare say, sentimental. But it is impossible at times to resist Horowitz’s sentimentality. He just wins you over, and resistance is futile. I do not care at all for his banging, though, except perhaps in some of the more exuberant Scarlatti pieces. My ears are so spoiled by Arrau’s sound that almost everyone else sounds metallic and brutal in any dynamic above ff. And yet, Horowitz’s playing could be unbearably touching when he was on. Exhibit A: the most gorgeous performance of any Scarlatti I’ve ever heard…

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