It's a pity that RCA didn't wait until 1978 to record Vladimir Horowitz' shattering Liszt Sonata, rather than issuing this live performance from 1976. Horowitz had just reacquired the work, and its demanding figurations cl... more »early had not settled in all in way. Still, Liszt and Horowitz' heroic voices ring true. The pianist packs everything but the kitchen sink into Mephisto Waltz, adding Busoni's embellishments and a coda of his own devising. By contrast, the gentle Consolation soars with simplicity. For prime Horowitz, turn to his classic 1950 Funérailles, where his big vision and demonic flair prevent the music from becoming a mere octave etude. --Dan Davis« less
It's a pity that RCA didn't wait until 1978 to record Vladimir Horowitz' shattering Liszt Sonata, rather than issuing this live performance from 1976. Horowitz had just reacquired the work, and its demanding figurations clearly had not settled in all in way. Still, Liszt and Horowitz' heroic voices ring true. The pianist packs everything but the kitchen sink into Mephisto Waltz, adding Busoni's embellishments and a coda of his own devising. By contrast, the gentle Consolation soars with simplicity. For prime Horowitz, turn to his classic 1950 Funérailles, where his big vision and demonic flair prevent the music from becoming a mere octave etude. --Dan Davis
Robert J. Sullivan Jr. | Chicago, IL USA | 11/14/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Lightyears away in pianism
alan | Atlanta, Georgia United States | 07/31/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Reading these other reviews makes me ill! I have listened to 8 different versions of Liszt's piano sonata in b minor and not one of them, not Martha Agreich, not rubenstein, not brendel, no one can come within a mile of this recording. This is the greatest recording of the Liszt sonata. I hear no staggering rhythms but certain things he does for effect. It is the most powerful and haunting recording I have ever heard! Around the 20 minute mark he reaches an extreme musicality that no one else can come even close to reaching. The final coda is also breath taking with its alarming and ear wrenching volume and overwhelming pianism. But Horowitz was just as great a light pp performer that he was a loud ffff performer. The third movement is enoough to make me cry openly, and when he reaches that beautiful climax it makes my heart jump into my throat. The cheif editor of this CD, well your an idiot and should be fired for your misleading comments. I have been studying music for many years now and have never come across a greater performer than Horowitz. It only confirms my convictions that he is the greatest who has ever lived. I am obviously very smitten with the man but that does not blind me of his weaknesses, the weaknesses that are few in number and that every other pianist has. The modern pianist today make me sick to the core with their "stylish" playing. What the hell does "stylish" mean? Your playing a beautiful instrument and above all music. Unlike Horowitz many performers get in the way of the music rather than let the music control them. And this is what Horowitz does best. The Ballade and Mephisto waltz are mind blowing too with a great Mephisto waltz ending and great sections to be heard in the Ballade. The Funerallias is very old but brilliance sure can be heard! If only people would study the sheet music before they criticised this brilliant artist maybe he'd grow greater acclaim than the timid Rubinstein. Oh and give the guy a break he was in his seventies when he recorded these, not bad for an old man as he puts it. Coming from an expert on pianism, BUY THIS CD! OR ANY HOROWITZ CD!"
This Horowitz CD presents two important recordings.
KNCE@aol.com Kevin Wilson | California | 01/01/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For the Horowitz lover or the Liszt devotee, this CD presents two important recordings. First, from Horowitz's late period, is the Ballade No.2 (1981). None of his late recordings better displays his legendary dynamics, tone coloring and melodic lines than the beautiful pianism in the Ballade. Second, from the period shortly before his "retirement", comes his justly famous performance of the Funerailles (1950). The titanic, octave-pounding, super-bravura style of Anton Rubenstein demonstrates the immense "sound" and emotion that made the young Horowitz world famous. The rest of the disc offers lesser performances from his later years, during noticeable periods when his technical skills had declined temporarily. The best all- Liszt CD available is Jorge Bolet's recording, "Franz Liszt, Favorite Recordings" (London, 2CD set): superb throughout, unmatched in the over-all scope of the pianism."
Highly theatrical, an interpretation of extremes, beyond the
Discophage | France | 08/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a write this review, this disc can be purchased for under 3$ under its other entry (Horowitz Plays Liszt). That's not much for one of the most controversial, but in my opinion one of the most extraordinary accounts of Liszt's Sonata ever committed to disc. It was in 1977, and Horowitz re-recorded that great work 34 years after his pioneering effort from 1933, a version still considered by some as a standard, and certainly one in its time. But I find that in his later version, Horowitz has considerably changed his view and added insights not even hinted at in the earlier recording.
Mind you, I am not a Horowitz groupie (I usually like his Schumann and Scriabin, his Schubert much less, and I have mixed feelings about his Chopin), and I when I returned to this disc (I have the original CD release from 1987), I certainly wasn't ready to genuflect jut because my God was playing. But it has me bowled over.
But be prepared: as the other reviews bear witness, controversial this new reading certainly is. If I heard it for the first time on a blind test, I'd immediately think of a Russian pianist, and one with a big and controversial personality - say, Feltsman, Pletnev, or Pogorelich (OK, not Russian, but Russian-trained). If I were to encapsulate Horowitz' approach in one word, it would be "theatrical". Under the hands of Horowitz, from the first bars on, the Sonata is not just a piece of music, it is a theatre play or an opera - and I bet Horowitz had Faust in mind, one of the composer's great influences (and I do think Faust is the Sonata's hidden agenda). The phrases develop as a story told, or rather, enacted. Now it is precisely this very theatricality that some critics (and listeners) have hated. I remember the Fanfare reviewer when the LP was first released, calling it "vulgar theatrics". Well, theatrics they certainly are, and vulgar? Possibly, as Grand Opera can oftentimes verge on the vulgar. Horowitz here is beyond the boundaries of good and bad taste.
Indeed, it is an interpretation of extremes, extremes of tempo (it is much more spacious than in 1933, 30' to 26:30) and even more, of dynamics. Horowitz can be brutal and demonic and wring out an awesome amount of decibels from his piano, reminding one of the older Richter (but with more demonic power). Even more than in 1933, the touch has an exciting crispness and the technique shows no sign of wilting - it even sounds more assured than before. But Horowitz can sweetly sing as well and mold out his phrases as a soprano would sing them - some might say too effusively, but I don't find so. The big fugue starts at 19:33 in a subdued manner and almost playfully - cat playing with mouse, maybe, or rather Mephisto with Faust, before ruthlessly claiming his soul: "the time has come". And sure enough: soon the extremes of violence burst out.
This is an interpretation to love or hate - I am among the lovers.
To me the rest is sheer bonus. We get the content of the original LP, to which RCA has added the famous 1950 "Funérailles", in a good transfer. "
Vainglory begins at home . . .
Jurgen Lawrenz | Sydney, Australia | 07/14/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I think two or three of the other reviewers have said enough to help prospective buyers made up their mind. The performance of the Sonata - after all, the chief work on the album - is idiosyncratic, theatrical, bombastic, even a bit on the deficient side, technically speaking. I agree that the Funerailles are the best track, but that's a fill up, not the main fare! So 4 or 5 stars are inappropriate, because they represent the value of the whole disc, not one piece on it! I think, in any case, that the Sonata exhibits the shortcomings of Horowitz as an interpreter of music. In this music, where he should be right at home, he fails to "bring off" whatever his underlying intention might have been. "Idiosyncratic" means, in this case, yielding time and again to the temptation to pull a phrase or section apart in order highlight something, playing soft passages with big fists, playing some fast sections so fast that his fingers can't keep up; and then again slowing down to almost a standstill. Flow this work has none, if you trust Horowitz. If you are familiar with his treatment of standard repertoire pieces, you are sure to know what the essence of his music making is: circus tricks with his fingers, with the pedal etc. Horowitz is a magician with pianist colour. Very little serious music can stand this kind of monkeying around. Not Liszt either. To give a successful performance demands seriousness of mind. And by golly, Horowitz tries hard; but his problem is that he takes himself and his pianism far too seriously to even get close to looking at the MUSIC. So what you have here is not an interpretation but HOROWITZ (in big letters) playing liszt (in small letters). Let us be grateful (if there's anythnig to be grateful about ) that he doesn't change the music, as he does so often. On this testimony, except for one fairly small piece, Horowitz is a poor Liszt interpreter. But he's also poor in that regard playing Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin etc etc. What is he really good at? Well, strictly speaking, at playing the piano - the piano as an instrument. The music doesn't matter! If have 20-odd recordings of his, and I am still looking for just one where he plays the music, not himself. So that's what this is all about - that's why this is an album no serious music lover would consider as an enrichment of their library of recorded music."