on Horowitz in Moscow

My daughter’s music teacher sent home a video recording of an amazing concert in Moscow, April 20, 1986, when Vladimir Horowitz was 81 years old. We took the time to watch and listen this evening. Horowitz was an incredible musician, marvelously skilled. Reviews I have read say some of the performances at this concert were his best ever. The pieces he played were these:

  1. Sonata for keyboard in E major, K. 380 (L. 23) “Cortège” Composed by Domenico Scarlatti
  2. Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major, K. 330 (K. 300h) Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  3. Preludes (13) for piano, Op. 32 No 05, Prelude in G major Composed by Sergey Rachmaninov
  4. Preludes (13) for piano, Op. 32 No 12, Prelude in G sharp minor Composed by Sergey Rachmaninov
  5. Etude for piano in C sharp minor, Op. 2/1 Composed by Alexander Scriabin
  6. Etude for piano in D sharp minor, Op. 8/12 Composed by Alexander Scriabin
  7. Soirées de Vienne, valse caprice for piano No. 6 (I; after Schubert D. 969 & 779) S. 427/6 (LW A131/6) Composed by Franz Liszt
  8. Sonetto del Petrarca No. 104 (Pace non trovo; II) for piano (Années II/5), S. 161/5 (LW A55/5) Composed by Franz Liszt
  9. Mazurka for piano No. 21 in C sharp minor, Op. 30/4, CT. 71 Composed by Fryderyk Chopin
  10. Mazurka for piano No. 7 in F minor, Op. 7/3, CT. 58 Composed by Fryderyk Chopin
  11. Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) for piano, Op. 15 Traumerei Composed by Robert Schumann
  12. Characteristic pieces (8), for piano, Op 36 No 6, Etincelles: Allegro scherzando Composed by Moritz Moszkowski
  13. Polka W.R., for piano in A flat major, TN ii/18 Composed by Sergey Rachmaninov

The thing that struck me as I listened to this performance is that to enjoy this kind of music you must be patient. Each piece takes time to develop and to say what it is going to say. As the concert began, I found myself longing for a commentator to break in after a few minutes to tell me what is going on. I expect this is because we live in such a fast paced ‘sound bite’ culture. We can’t sit still long. The music can’t hold us, and we won’t be held.

By the time the concert reached the mid-point of the first half, that sensation of impatience disappeared. The music unveiled itself at its own pace and seemed over all too quickly by the end. The entire video, including some interview footage with Horowitz, lasted an hour and 51 minutes.