Incredibly, the last public recital given by Vladimir Horowitz, the pianist many critics call the greatest of the twentieth century, was recorded but never released. North German Radio recorded Horowitz's June 21, 1987, recital in Hamburg's Musikhalle, but the recording remained nearly untouched until Deutsche Grammophon released it in 2008. For dedicated Horowitz fans, this will be all they need to know. For everyone else, a word of explanation is in order.
Eighty three years old and increasingly frail, this Horowitz is not the thundering virtuoso of earlier years. Altogether gone is the heaven-storming pianist of his youth, but still present is the supreme artist of his maturity. Though the pieces here are for the most part much less demanding than those the younger pianist would have chosen, the choices of Mozart, Schubert, and especially Schumann were perfect for the mature artist. There is a crystalline elegance in the Andante cantabile from Mozart's B flat major Sonata, K. 333, a lyrical grace in the Allegretto moderato from Schubert's Moments musical, and a wise poetry in "Der Dichter spricht" from Schumann's Kinderszenen that bespeaks the insights of age. Unfortunately, the infirmities of age are also apparent in Horowitz's performance of Chopin's A flat major Polonaise. His technique clearly unequal to the task, he smashes and bashes the work with reckless abandon. Captured in colorful but slightly recessed sound, Horowitz's last recital should be heard by anyone who ever enjoyed the master's work. How often they return to it is entirely up to him/her.