Horowitz in Hamburg – The Last Concert

0 of 5 stars

Mozart
Rondo in D, K485
Piano Sonata in B flat, K333
Liszt (after Schubert)
Soirées de Vienne: Valse-Caprice No.6 in A minor
Schumann
Kinderszenen, Op.15
Chopin
Mazurka in B minor, Op.33/4
Polonaise in A flat, Op.53
Schubert
Moment musical in F minor, D780/3
Moszkowski
Etincelles, Op.36/6

Vladimir Horowitz (piano)

Recorded 21 June 1987 in Grosser Saal, Laeiszhalle, Hamburg


Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: June 2008
CD No: DG 477 7558
Duration: 74 minutes

I have not always fully responded to Vladimir Horowitz’s playing and have sometimes been repelled – too much the showman, the crowd-pleaser – but this recital, the pianist’s “last performance in public” (at the age of 83, or 82, birth-dates of either 1903 or 1904 can be found, and he died in 1989) proves to be not only a fine memento but includes some fine performances.

Following welcoming applause, Horowitz gives a delightfully skittish account of Mozart’s D major Rondo, a rendition that doesn’t overlook darker seams of sound and emotion or arresting dynamic contrasts. The B flat Sonata is likeable in its measure and playfulness, crisply fingered and with the occasional aristocratic touch. At the heart of the Sonata, before a light-hearted finale (one touched with sadness, which Horowitz seems acutely aware of), is an Andante cantabile unfolded spaciously, with intimate feeling.

Liszt’s fanciful extension of Schubert brings a lively and caressed set of dances before Schumann’s Kinderszenen is played with beguiling innocence, ‘Träumerei’ being simplicity incarnate – a lifetime’s experience is here turned into ‘second childhood’. The Chopin Mazurka is a bit ‘punchy’, not quite inward or searching enough, but the Polonaise is rather noble if curiously damped-down at times; but it convinces. If Horowitz is betraying tiredness by now, his lifelong association with the music is palpable.

This recital, which had started at 4.30 in the afternoon, and was somewhat short measure (even so NDR failed to record Schubert’s G flat Impromptu, D899/3), ended with two encores: the F minor Moment musical expressed with wit and feeling, and Etincelles is deft and delicate.

The radio sound is good enough, the piano rather dryly captured and lacking the last degree of colour. The booklet includes numerous photographs and the programme itself – never released before – is both a fine souvenir for the pianist’s admirers and something of a reconciliation for doubters.

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