This four-CD set presents a selection of performances by a young lion of the keyboard: Vladimir Horowitz. Dating from 1928 to 1947, these classic recordings document the piano virtuoso at his most fiery and fearless. The repertoire ranges from Baroque and Classical scores (Scarlatti, Haydn, Beethoven, Mendelssohn) to the great Romantics (Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Rachmaninoff), 20th-century pieces (Debussy, Poulenc, Prokofiev) and transcriptions by Horowitz himself. Pristine copies of the original HMV/Victor 78s were transferred and digitally remastered using the state-of-the-art CAP 440 technique. The handsomely illustrated 84-page booklet features an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tim Page and a perceptive essay by New York Times critic Paul Griffiths ("Vladimir Horowitz: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Lion"), as well as detailed artist biographies from The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
Prokofiev's Third was one of the concertos that appeared in the Richard Dreyfuss movie "The Competition," and Byron Janis's performance is generally considered to be more than competition-worthy. In fact, many consider it the best ever, also a function of Kirill Kondrashin's inspired accompaniments. Janis's performance is a bit slower than usual, not because he lacks energy or technique, but rather because he actually takes the time to play all of those notes and make something musically satisfying out of them. It's a very personal interpretation, carried through with blazing conviction; and the coupling, Rachmaninoff's early First Concerto, is equally stunning. --David Hurwitz
If one were to list some of the supreme masterpieces of piano literature, Schumann's Fantasia in C Major, Opus 17 would be in that Pantheon. Every marvelous page contains the full measure of Schumann's passion. His Etudes Symphoniques, Opus 13 (here, complete with the five posthumous variations) is also a rich, glowing, intensely personal musical work. The highly difficult and devilishly virtuosic Toccata in C, Opus 7, on this disc was taken from a live performance. These three great piano works are performed by the Romantic Master of the piano, Grammy® award winner Earl Wild. Mastered by Ivory Classics using 24-bit HDCD technology.
The Schumann playing here is surprising from a famous virtuoso like Earl Wild, since he avoids virtuosic display in most of this music. Wild's playing on the opening Toccata, recorded live in 1974, is genteel and urbane, handling Schumann's difficulties without a trace of exertion--until the climactic chords near the end, when the pianist goes wild, slamming them out in a rush. Overall, though, it's a pleasing contrast to more aggressive performances by such greats as Sviatoslav Richter and Simon Barere. In the remaining two big works, studio recordings from 1990, Wild again stresses the lyrical and more relaxed elements in Schumann's music. This leads to memorably songful interpretations of such music as the slower (mostly posthumously published) variations of the Études and the intensely introverted finale of the Fantasie. Some big moments (like the central march of the Fantasie) may seem underpowered, but that's obviously the artist's choice. Sound is fine in the live recording, a trifle boxy in the studio recordings. Not your basic Schumann performances, perhaps, but an intriguing alternative. --Leslie Gerber