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CD Review

Franz Liszt

RCA 61415

Horowitz Plays Liszt

  • Sonata in B minor
  • Ballade #2
  • Consolation #3
  • Funérailles
  • Mephisto Waltz #1
Vladimir Horowitz, piano
RCA 09026-61415-2 Time: 72:54 ADD/DDD
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This is a very mixed bag. Only the "Funérailles" (1950) shows Horowitz in his prime; the rest of the selections date from 1977-81, a period when his technical control (and sometimes his taste) frequently deserted him. The huge sonorities in the Sonata are betrayed by clotted rhythms - the all important flow between titanic climax and cantabile is often ragged. Snatches of coherent narrative are punctuated by indulgent tonal noodlings. There's a really bad splice at 2:03 of the Sonata; after that he seems to gather his resources and achieves some stunning effects, mostly of the fff variety.

The Ballade is a slight improvement; the live acoustic has a powerful resonance (try the climaxes around the ninth minute). Horowitz confided that parallel scales were a weak point in his technique. So, his unison isn't perfect, but he is fearless in the ascending runs of the Ballade. The Mephisto Waltz concludes with an embarrassing pastiche of codas - the final chord may have been struck with Horowitz's elbow. The audience goes wild, of course. Horowitz's "Funérailles" is great pianism. From the stricken opening chords to the primal accelerando that takes hold of the left hand octaves, this is probably the finest rendition ever recorded.

Copyright © 1998, Robert J. Sullivan

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