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Horowitz: The Last Recording

4.9 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 24, 1990
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Editorial Reviews

11 songs,1990
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Product Details

  • Performer: Vladimir Horowitz
  • Composer: Frederic Chopin, Joseph Haydn, Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt
  • Audio CD (April 24, 1990)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony Classical
  • Run Time: 57 minutes
  • ASIN: B000009IG6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,880 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Hank Drake VINE VOICE on April 27, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Vladimir Horowitz had just celebrated his 86th birthday when sessions for this recording began in October of 1989. He had recently been lured to Sony Classical by their new director, Gunther Breest, who had signed Horowitz on at Deutsche Grammphon in 1985. One advantage that Sony carried, besides a bigger paycheck, was the latest technology. This recording utilized Sony's then new 20-bit technology, which resulted in a more defined sound picture for this most subtle of pianists.
The contents of this CD were all new to the Horowitz discography. By the late 1980s, Horowitz had refined and stripped down his art to the essentials. There are none of the histrionics of his early recordings, nor any of the attempts to prove to the listener that he could still play the fastest and the loudest which marred some of his recordings from the 1970s.
Horowitz was stimulated by Haydn's diverse pianistic textures and whimsical changes of mood. The first movement, a bouncy Allegro, is a perfect demonstration the "controlled freedom" of Horowitz's late period. While following the same basic pulse, Horowitz introduces tiny alterations of tempo which keeps the music flowing coherently, without sounding metronomic. The rapidly ascending scale passages here are played with a dazzling evenness of touch. The slow movement, a true cantabile, is phrased as though it were being sung rather than played. The minor key outburst is, for a rarity, truly shocking. The Finale is played with a gentle virtuosity which never goes beyond the bounds of appropriate Haydn style.
Horowitz recorded more of Chopin's music than that of any other composer. He was justly famous for his performances of Chopin's Mazurkas, which seamlessly blended the dance and poetic elements.
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Format: Audio CD
It is truly amazing to think that Horowitz was 86 years old when he made this recording. The virtuoso passages of Chopin that require fingertip pyrotechnics are played with flawless precision and a sense of nuance and shading that is exquisite. At his very best, Horowitz took music to a level where he made the piano into his palette and painted a marvelously subtle musical picture. On the slower passages, every note and even the intervals between the notes exhude a calm self-assured artistry. This is not just wonderful music; it is sheer poetry. As Murray Perahia writes in his touching essay in the CD insert, Horowitz felt that what made a composer truly classical was "an intensity and purity of expression where every note matters, every note has meaning." One certainly hears and feels that intensity and purity on this CD.

There is also a noticeable improvement in sound quality on this CD, that was recorded digitally, in comparison to earlier Horowitz recordings I have heard from the analog era. How fortunate we should all feel that he lived into the digital era and was still playing at such a sublime level into his final years, so that he could leave us this musical legacy. My personal favorite on this CD is track 6, the "Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op. 66 of Chopin, which is played with dazzling scintillating brilliance and, at the same time, superb control, subtlety, and deep emotion. However, a close second for me is the tenth track, Liszt's "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen" a Prelude based on a theme from Bach's Cantata No. 12. Horowitz's performance of this composition is achingly beautiful. The CD booklet has an excellent essay by Murray Perahia in English, with German, French and Italian translations. A wonderful CD and fitting memorial to one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This album was the last ever made by this awesome legend of piano-playing. Recorded at his own home in six sessions over twelve days, it is stunning to realise that this performance comes from a man of 86 years of age. I thought I had heard just about everything he had ever recorded. This album includes music he had never before played publicly ' at least not in the USA - or recorded.
Haydn's Eflat Sonata No 49 sparkles from start to finish, full of typical Horowitzian colour and drama, yet classical in flavour and beautifully balanced.
A Mazurka, two Nocturnes and two Etudes by Chopin, and Liszt's arrangement of Wagner's 'Liebestod' follow, each pianistically fabulous in terms of colour, multiple singing melodic lines, textural richness and clarity.
The popular and much-hackneyed Fantasie Impromptu flows unexpectedly quieter than one usually hears it played, which is rather refreshing. I took a while to get used to the absence of sentimentality in the middle section.
The 'Weinen Klagen' Praeludium is a gem. This late Liszt composition is not particularly well-known. In his later years Liszt explored and developed visionary harmonic ideas, which are exemplified in the richly chromatic 'Praeludium.' Horowitz brings it's darkly exquisite harmonies to life with turbulent intensity. Although it comes second to last, I understand this was the last piece of music recorded for this disc, therefore the last ever recorded by the maestro. This recording was completed on 1st November 1989. The maestro died on November 5th 1989.
A few quirky features here and there, but it would not be vintage Horowitz without those. Essential listening for piano music lovers and especially Horowitz fans.
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