Frenetic Intensity

Vladimir Horowitz was an easy pianist for me to love when I was younger. His fingerwork was dazzling and he brought great excitement to his interpretations. As I came to appreciate other pianists’ playing and more subtle forms of phrasing, I became less interested in Horowitz, but his early recordings – those made before his psychological condition worsened and he became so self-conscious – did continue to thrill me.

Shortly after the pianist’s death, EMI released a 3-CD set of his early recordings which included some rare items, including a never-before-released 1930 recording of a Prokofiev Toccata – great stuff. I was particularly excited when one day in a London record shop I should stumble across the vinyl pressing of that unpublished 78 disc that had been used by sound engineer Keith Hardwick for that EMI CD – for a mere five pounds. I loaned it to Bryan Crimp of Appian Publications and Recordings, who would later use it for his own Horowitz reissue, and more recently it has been used by Canada’s own Yves St. Laurent for one of his Horowitz CDs on his label.

The performance is so exciting that it’s hard to know why it wasn’t released (a performance from 6 months later Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G Minor features Horowitz in a rather panicky memory lapse and is the one that ought not to have been issued). His rhythm is wonderfully paced, lines are superbly crafted, and the excitement builds to a frenetic pace. Volodya at his best!