By the early '70s, Vladimir Horowitz's career had entered its second period of decline, a decline less precipitous than the decline of the '50s, but more insidious and ultimately more final. By the early '70s, Horowitz's tone and technique had begun to decay, his octaves began sounding even more clangorous, and his passagework began sounding even more careless than in his first Columbia comeback discs from the early '60s. What was worse, Horowitz's temperament was beginning to sound past nervous to neurotic and past stressed to strained and his interpretations had long since passed mannered and become eccentric and even strange.
And that was no more so than in these early-'70s recordings Horowitz made for Columbia of three Beethoven piano sonatas: the Moonlight, the Waldstein, and inevitably, the Appassionata. His dynamics are not quite controlled in the Moonlight. His rhythm is not always steady in the Waldstein. His technique is simply not up to the virtuosic demands of the Presto coda of the closing movement of the Appassionata. And his eccentric interpretations, his constantly changing tempos between themes and sections, undermine the structure of the music that is always a fatal flaw in performing Beethoven, one of the most architectural of all composers. Sony's remastered sound is very present and very immediate.