BBC Legends – Mieczyslaw Horszowski

0 of 5 stars

Partita in C minor, BWV826
Piano Sonata in B flat, K570
Nocturnes, Op.27 – in C sharp minor & in D flat
Mazurka in C, Op.24/2
Children’s Corner

Mieczysław Horszowski (piano)

Recorded on 13 June 1983 and 9 June 1984 (Debussy) in Snape Maltings (Aldeburgh Festival)

Reviewed by: Colin Clarke

Reviewed: March 2007
BBCL 4203-2
Duration: 69 minutes

Mieczysław Horszowski’s career was something of a miracle. He was born in 1892, putting him in his nineties when the present live recordings were made. He plays Bach with an astonishing purity – this C minor Partita contains some of the most arresting Bach on the piano I have heard. The recording, fairly close but not uncomfortably so, allows for a clarity that mirrors Horszowski’s playing. The ‘Allemande’ is the epitome of serenity, perfect in its poise. Horszowski’s calm stance is entirely apt here, as his is slightly more robust approach to the ‘Courante’. The occasional biting accent in the penultimate movement (‘Rondeaux’) adds a touch of spice before the (relatively) big-guns of the concluding ‘Capriccio’ come in. Horszowski’s Bach is remarkably wide-ranging, taking in the possibilities of Bach on the piano to illuminate an interpretation born of so many years’ experience.

Late Mozart tends to have something of the same serenity about it. The first movement of K570 is despatched with supreme grace, limpid legato and a sure grasp of harmonic direction. Contrasts are subsumed under an umbrella of calm assurance. In the Adagio, it is Horszowski’s variety of touch that makes it so purely magical, plus his decision to colour his tone in a rather dark, almost conspiratorial manner. The spiky staccatissimo of the finale’s opening comes in stark contrast; Horszowski’s tempo is perfect for Allegretto, wherein he finds much light comedy.

It is his pedalling that marks out Horszowski’s Chopin Nocturnes. He manages to create an aptly veiled sonority yet present everything with clarity – blurring is kept to an absolute minimum. The intimacy he creates is remarkable, though. Opus 27/Number 1 rises to quite an anguished climax. The second of the pair makes one appreciate why Debussy ends the recital – and this even before this Nocturne’s proto-Debussian coda. Right from the opening bars there is a lightness of texture and a flexibility that points forward to Impressionism. This coda is, in fact, a model of Chopinesque rubato and shadings. A charming Mazurka acts as the perfect complement.

The Debussy (the only item not from the 1983 recital) includes a spellbinding ‘Jimbo’s Lullaby’, a miraculously delicate ‘The Snow is Dancing’ and a crisp and incisive ‘Golliwog’s Cakewalk’. It rounds off a memorable disc.

Jeremy Siepmann’s rather waffling booklet note is perhaps the weakest part of the present release. Perhaps best just to listen to the wonderful playing…

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