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Hyperion Records

APR6004 - Vladimir Horowitz – The complete solo European recordings
APR6004
(Originally issued on APR5516, APR5517)
Recording details: Various dates
Various recording venues
Release date: February 2007
Total duration: 137 minutes 11 seconds

Vladimir Horowitz – The complete solo European recordings
CD1
No 4 in C sharp minor: Presto  [2'01]  recorded 2 June 1935
No 5 in G flat major, 'Black Keys': Vivace  [1'35]  recorded 2 June 1935
No 8 in F major: Allegro  [2'19]  recorded 15 November 1932
No 3 in F major: Allegro  [1'29]  recorded 12 May 1934
Mazurka in F minor Op 7 No 3  [2'22]  Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)  recorded 15 November 1932
Movement 1: Grave – Doppio movimento  [7'05]  recorded 9 March 1936
Lento assai  [11'08]  recorded 12 November 1932
Andante sostenuto  [6'11]  recorded 12 November 1932
Allegro energico – Più mosso  [4'12]  recorded 12 November 1932
Andante sostenuto  [2'25]  recorded 12 November 1932
CD2
Sonata in B minor Kk87  [4'18]  Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)  recorded 4 June 1935
Sonata in G major Kk125  [2'06]  Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)  recorded 2 June 1935
Allegro moderato  [5'46]  recorded 11 November 1932
Adagio  [4'54]  recorded 11 November 1932
Finale: Presto  [4'56]  recorded 11 November 1932
Presto passionato in G minor  [5'30]  Robert Schumann (1810-1856)  recorded 15 November 1932
Arabeske in C major Op 18  [6'16]  Robert Schumann (1810-1856)  recorded 6 May 1934
Toccata in C major Op 7  [4'41]  Robert Schumann (1810-1856)  recorded 12 May 1934
No 5 in G minor: Alla marcia  [3'15]  recorded 12 June 1931
Toccata in D minor Op 11  [3'32]  Serge Prokofiev (1891-1953)  recorded 30 December 1930

This is a recording from Appian Publications & Recordings Ltd (to quote the full title)—the label invariably more familiarly known simply as "APR".

Since its foundation in 1986, APR has won an enviable reputation as a quality label devoted predominantly—though not exclusively—to historic piano recordings. In particular APR has won countless laurels for the high standard of its 78rpm restoration work—"Transfers of genius" to quote one critic—as well as the detail and content of its booklets.


Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Such was the impact of America’s Great Depression that RCA Victor, hard-pressed to honour its artists’ contracts, was only too pleased to have them record elsewhere. For his part, HMV’s Fred Gaisberg welcomed the resulting invasion of celebrities with open arms. He was confident that recordings made in London would be not only technically and artistically superior to anything that had gone before but also commercially viable.

Vladimir Horowitz was among the first of RCA’s artists to benefit from this development. He had cut his first discs in 1928, shortly after a succession of sensational appearances during his initial visit to America, though they comprised only a modest selection of short pieces. For his all-important first concerto recording Horowitz came to London. The chosen repertoire was nothing less than the Everest of romantic concertos, Rachmaninov’s Concerto in D minor, which the pianist had been championing since his student days at the Kiev Conservatory. With Albert Coates and the London Symphony Orchestra, Horowitz recorded the concerto at the Kingsway Hall on 29 December 1930. All takes were abandoned, primarily for technical reasons, and the concerto re-recorded the following day together with Prokofiev’s Toccata. The latter, a favoured showpiece of the twenty-seven-year-old firebrand, was the designated ‘fill-up’ for the tenth side. However, shortly before the release of this prestigious premiere recording the decision was taken to dispense with the Prokofiev title: additional Rachmaninov – the Prelude in G minor, Op 23 No 5 – was considered more appropriate. Such was the urgency of securing this single replacement side that Electrola, the German branch of EMI, was commissioned to record it in Berlin while Horowitz was on tour. (In contrast to the rock-like security of his playing in Prokofiev, the inaccuracies which pepper Horowitz’s only Berlin recording – approved, incidentally, by the pianist – still come as a major surprise.)

By the time Horowitz next recorded for HMV, in November 1932, EMI’s new studio complex at Abbey Road was up and running. So was Horowitz. He was on the crest of a considerable wave, his name already having become synonymous with playing of white-knuckle bravura and intensity. Even so, the confidence of pianist (and recording producer – uncredited in existing documentation, but almost certainly Fred Gaisberg given what he writes of Horowitz in his autobiography Music on Record) is breathtaking. From the accompanying discography it will be apparent that the three November 1932 sessions include no fewer than nine titles recorded without a ‘reserve’ or ‘alternate’ take. (How could HMV be so confident that a matrix would not be lost in the delicate processing of a wax master to a metal stamper?) Be that as it may, Horowitz’s first sessions at Abbey Road found him committing to posterity his now celebrated interpretations of Liszt’s Sonata and Funérailles, the premiere recording of Haydn’s Sonata in E flat and some colourful morceaux. It possibly comes as no surprise to discover the pianist fretting over the most overtly virtuosic matrix [2B 4489], a pairing of Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Bumble-bee à la Rachmaninov’ and the Russian Dance from Stravinsky’s Petrushka. Almost immediately after publication Horowitz requested its deletion from the catalogue.

The single 1933 session was not a success. Indeed, Horowitz left Abbey Road under the impression that none of the matrices were up to standard though he ultimately deemed the Chopin Mazurka in E minor acceptable. The growing pressures upon Horowitz at this time, not least the need to come to a decision as to whether he (in so many respects the archetypal bachelor) should marry into the Toscanini family, were beginning to take their toll.

The first two May 1934 sessions were certainly happier and more productive, a reflection, no doubt, of the change in Horowitz’s personal circumstances: not only had he committed himself to marriage, he was also a father-to-be and had been reunited with his father (who had secured a temporary exit visa from the Soviet Union). Again, Horowitz agonized over one particular matrix [2B 7209], in this instance a pairing of the Chopin Études Op 10 No 5 & Op 25 No 3, to such an extent that he returned to the studio for an unscheduled third session on 29 May expressly to re-record this one side. He approved the resulting third take but later changed his mind in favour of the second take before, days after the record was announced, asking for it to be withdrawn from the catalogue. (Only the Étude Op 25 No 3 from take two has survived; Op 10 No 5 is represented by Horowitz’s later recording when it was paired with the Étude Op 10 No 4.) Perhaps the most tantalizing unpublished title of the May 1934 sessions, if not this entire series, is the start of a recording of the Brahms ‘Paganini’ Variations, with which Horowitz had so astonished British critics the previous year. Regrettably he did not return to the score in subsequent sessions.

To a considerable extent the outcome of the three June 1935 sessions and the solitary March 1936 session mirror Horowitz’s fragile psychological and physical state at this time, a condition brought about by a lethal combination of overwork and myriad personal anxieties both real and imagined. The primary intention of these sessions was a recording of Chopin’s Sonata No 2 though only one of at least seventeen matrices was approved when the project was eventually abandoned once the depth of Horowitz’s decline had become apparent. Even so, the pianist’s final 78rpm European recording sessions were by no means a total failure: aside from the re-recording of the Chopin Étude Op 10 No 5 (partnered, as mentioned earlier, by the Étude Op 10 No 4), there is his febrile account of the Chopin Scherzo No 4 and his very first recorded excursion into ‘pure’ Scarlatti. Shortly after this session Horowitz retired from the public arena.

When Horowitz returned to the concert platform (in earnest in 1939) and the recording studio (in 1940) it was evident that a different pianist had emerged. Thus, his relatively few European recordings chronicle a distinct and brief phase in the continually evolving art of this most individual artist. (For this reason all surviving items – published and unpublished, approved and unapproved – are included in this survey.) Never again would we hear Horowitz consistently taking such risks or displaying such raw nervous energy in the recording studio. He had, without question, stood at the edge of an abyss, though the hallmark of the resulting records is a unique fusion of fantasy, daring, keyboard colour and musical insight.

Bryan Crimp © 1997

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