Vladimir Horowitz – Piano Legend

The good – Perhaps the best ever

The bad – Wish I knew of him sooner

The ugly – Nothing

 

My introduction to the great Vladimir Horowitz was when I received two of his CDs on Christmas 1999. I had asked my wife for some classical solo piano music, suggesting something from the CD series “Great Pianists Of The 20th Century,” all double-CD sets. My wife made an excellent choice, giving me the first two (of the three) Vladimir Horowitz titles (Vols. 47 & 48). I have since acquired ALL 100 titles in this series, and these two are my favorites of the bunch.

Just what I was looking for
Those two CDs were a perfect introduction for me to (finally) give serious attention to classical solo piano music. These recordings represent a collection of some of Horowitz’s finest performances, and the music repertoire is fantastic. The first Horowitz title (Vol. 47) is all about the compositions of Robert Schumann. I’ve heard others play these same Schumann compositions, but none better than these recordings of Horowitz. This is probably my favorite classical solo piano CD.

The second Horowitz title (Vol. 48) features compositions from Franz Liszt, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Prokofiev, Alexander Scriabin, and Frédéric Chopin. This is also a great CD. Even with over 200 classical solo piano CDs in my collection, I’ve listened to these two more than all the others combined. The only other CD in this genre that comes close is Ingrid Fliter’s great Chopin Piano Works CD.

A true master of his craft
There are, and have been, MANY truly great classical pianists through the years, and I enjoy listening to them. But Horowitz seems to stand above the rest, at least in the opinion of many. He performed recitals through 1987, and continued to record until he died in 1989 at the age of 86. It is some of these latter years’ recordings that are simply astounding.

Horowitz’s early playing seemed filled with “fire and brimstone,” which I suppose was a reflection of the classical solo piano performance circuit “requirement” of that time period. He also may have felt it necessary to “pull out all the stops” to gain respectability early on. I find that his later performances seem to reflect a more thoughtful and mature approach, pouring his entire soul into his playing, wringing every last drop of energy and emotion that he had to give. This is the Horowitz that I most enjoy.

His music changed my life, and my perspective on music
I had enjoyed listening to classical music in the past, including solo piano. But it had never been one of my favorite genres to listen to. Hearing these first two Horowitz CDs changed all that. I wanted to hear more Horowitz, and other classical solo pianists. Yes, I still enjoy listening to rock, jazz, blues, etc., but classical solo piano music has become what I listen to the most. Dave Alvin’s great music ranks just behind this as my most-played music over the past 11 years.

This music had a profound effect on my life, and also greatly influenced my own personal approach to writing and performing music. Other artists, both before and since, have had an enormous impact on my life—my exposure to music as a child (both at home and at church), rock & pop music of the 1960s and 1970s, the jazz and fusion music of (predominantly) Miles Davis and Chick Corea, Dave Alvin’s American music, blues music, and more. But those first two Horowitz CDs were the perfect music at the right time.

…jf…

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