Vladimir Horowitz, Horowitz Plays Liszt And Scarlatti

Thomas Bartlett

By Thomas Bartlett

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Horowitz on Liszt — an unbeatable pair

It's no surprise that Vladimir Horowitz, perhaps the most dazzlingly virtuosic major pianist of the 20th century, was among the best interpreters of the music of Franz Liszt, the greatest piano virtuoso of the 19th century. Unfortunately (and strangely), recordings of Horowitz playing Liszt remain scarce, which makes this disc, recorded in the late '40s and early '50s and featuring performances of a number of Liszt's most enduringly popular works, all the more precious. The recording opens dramatically with "Funerailles," among the darkest and least showy of all Liszt's compositions, given a solemn but searingly intense reading by Horowitz. Among the other highlights are two pieces from Liszt's grand tone-poem travelogue, "Annees de Pelerinage," the lyrical, deeply emotional "Sonnetto Del Petrarca" and "Au Bord D'Une Source," which displays Horowitz's technique at its most shimmering and fleet. Finishing up the Liszt is Horowitz's characteristically flamboyant arrangement of the iconic "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2." The six brief Scarlatti sonatas that follow are a less than obvious pairing with the Liszt, but after all the over-the-top showmanship they act as a nice palate cleanser, like a bit of sorbet after a particularly rich meal. Horowitz approaches them, as he did everything, with a perhaps anachronistic but still charming Romanticism.