Vladimir Horowitz

Beethoven: Sonatas

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These are the "good" Horowitz Beethoven Sonatas. These aren't the hysterical Horowitz recordings from the '60s on Columbia. No, these are the histrionic Horowitz recordings from the '50s on RCA. This is not the over-the-top, out-of-control Horowitz of the '60s, but the archly dramatic and ironically virtuosic Horowitz of the '50s, the Horowitz who was the acknowledged king of the super virtuoso pianists, the Horowitz who could have his way with any repertoire from Bach through Scriabin, the Horowitz who unfortunately decided to have his way with Beethoven. The most structurally dramatic sonatas in the repertoire, Beethoven's Sonatas are concentrated, cogent, and compelling. Horowitz's Beethoven Sonatas are vaporous, vapid, and vain-glorious. Listen to Horowitz's breakneck tempos shift in the closing movement of the Appassionata. Listen to the heavy-handed sonorities in the opening movement of the Moonlight. Listen to the hard-body rhythms of the closing movement of the Waldstein. What is Horowitz trying to prove? That he can play faster and louder than any other pianist? That he can bend the tempos until they break? That he can trivialize dramatic structures into exercises in histrionic virtuosity? RCA's sound was brittle, cramped, and old then and it is still brittle, cramped, and old now.

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