Wigmore Hall Live: Mieczyslaw Horszowski

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Mozart
Piano Sonata in B flat, K570
Beethoven
Piano Sonata No.17 in D minor, Op.31/2 (Tempest)
Schumann
Arabesque, Op.18
Kinderszenen, Op.15 – Träumerei
Chopin
Mazurkas – in B minor, Op.33/4 & B, Op.32/1
Etudes, Op.25 – No.2 in F minor
Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, Op.66

Miecysław Horszowski (piano)

Recorded 4 June 1991 in Wigmore Hall, London


Reviewed by: Colin Clarke

Reviewed: May 2008
CD No: WIGMORE HALL LIVE
WHLive0023
Duration: 75 minutes

 

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In my two previous reviews for The Classical Source of Mieczyslaw Horszowski’s playing (both releases being from BBC Legends), I have celebrated the miracle that was this pianist. This Wigmore Hall Live offering, a recital taken down just three weeks shy of Horszowski’s 99th-birthday and, in fact, his last recital in England.

The highlight of the Mozart Sonata (an earlier account is included on BBC Legends) is the Adagio. Horszowski spoke of the importance of cantabile and legato, and here he almost transcends the limitations of his instrument with his beautiful, perfectly projected, singing line. If there are some miscalculations in the outer movements, there is nothing significant enough to disturb the overall transcendent quality one hears so readily. The heart-breaking delicacy of the finale means that Horszowski hardly has to take the final chords above mezzo forte to imbue them with the requisite sense of finality. If he brings anyone to mind, it is Lili Kraus (Music & Arts CD1001, her 1954 versions of all of Mozart’s sonatas, now on 5 CDs, and originally issued by the Haydn Society).

The first movement of the ‘Tempest’ Sonata might seem to have its storminess somewhat tempered. There is carefulness to some passages that may be off-putting to some, but all is forgiven for the spellbinding quality and exquisite gradations of the recitative passages. Again, the slow movement is a triumph of sustained, cogent thought, while the finale flows, liquid-like. Some contrasting passages, shorn of pedal, make their arresting mark. The whole is shot through with an almost tangible serenity. Wrong notes, mainly little fluffs, seem insignificant.

The rest of the recital comprises shorter pieces. Schumann’s Arabeske becomes an utterance of the utmost intimacy. Pedalling is perfectly judged (difficult enough in Schumann – add to that the notorious Wigmore Hall acoustic, a graveyard to pedal-addicts, and Horszowski’s achievement becomes all the more noteworthy). Chopin’s B minor Mazurka is almost exactly contemporary to Schumann’s piece, and is played here with an understanding that transcends the everyday. The more active moments are somewhat splashy; Horszowski regains a home footing for the B major Nocturne. The F minor Etude from Opus 25 is a model of quasi-improvised right-hand fluency and acts as the perfect foil for the graver intent of the Fantaisie-Impromptu. Horszowski’s projection of inner lines is wonderful; a memory lapse just before the five-minute mark sounds somehow poignant rather than disastrous. ‘Träumerei’, which Horszowski offered as an encore, avoids all sense of cliché.

The recording, re-mastered by Tony Faulkner, is exemplary – somehow conveying the intimacy of the venue as well as Horszowski’s myriad variations of touch.

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