Retrieved piano recitals by Mieczyslaw Horszowski have uncovered extensive documentation of his Schubert interpretation. His experience in playing the composer’s chamber music and lieder comes to the fore in a remarkable grasp of Schubert’s unique language. Bach and Mozart, other composers whom he played with profundity, were discovered in concert performances, all in works he had never recorded.
Mieczyslaw Horszowski, piano.
J.S. Bach Concerto no. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052 with Frederic Waldman and Musica Aeterna
- J.S. Bach Concerto no. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052 : I
- J.S. Bach Concerto no. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052 : II
- J.S. Bach Concerto no. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052 : III
- Schubert Moment Musicals no. 1
- Schubert Moment Musicals no. 2
- Schubert Moment Musicals no. 3
- Schubert Moment Musicals no. 4
- Schubert Moment Musicals no. 5
- Schubert Moment Musicals no. 6
- Schubert Impromptu D. 935 no. 1
- Schubert Impromptu D. 935 no. 2
- Schubert Impromptu D. 935 no. 3
- Schubert Impromptu D. 935 no. 4 incomplete
Mieczyslaw Horszowski, piano.
Mozart Piano Concerto no. 24 in C minor, K. 491, with Alexander Schneider and the Festival Orchestra
- Schubert Sonata in B flat, op. posth. I
- Schubert Sonata in B flat, op. posth. II
- Schubert Sonata in B flat, op. posth. III
- Schubert Sonata in B flat, op. posth. IV
- Mozart Piano Concerto no. 24 in C minor, K. 491: I
- Mozart Piano Concerto no. 24 in C minor, K. 491: II
- Mozart Piano Concerto no. 24 in C minor, K. 491: III
For ninety years, listeners and musicians were offered a rare musical experience in hearing the art of Horszowski. This unique interpreter possessed an ability to project not only beauty, drama, structure and the narrative of a work, but to explore all music in a way suggesting endless possibilites as he brought a work to life. One could hear a Bach Partita (no. 2 in C minor) played during his 91st year on two or three occasions and find the pianist making subtle changes in articulation, phrasing, even the manner of projecting the work. Unlike some artists who grasp a work in its entirety and dedicate themselves to replicating the sound of their inner ear, Horszowski understood this as a point of departure. His outward quiet demeanor contained a curiosity which led him to think through the music he was living with, playing, teaching, considering, studying. This curiosity aided his interpretation by compelling him to study a composer’s works in all genres so that a context, style, and language would become a foundation on which he would explore a work.
Many colleagues of Horszowski’s – especially Casals and Toscanini, listened to his playing and offered suggestions: their collaboration also shaped ideas and directions. He spoke of his interpretation of the Sarabande in the Bach C minor Partita as being influenced by Casals’ phrasing in the Cello Suites.
Even the physical aspect of performance was related to the music as one noted a change of body language with each composer. Horszowski’s Bach found a stillness in posture, his feet absent from the pedals. Films containing close-ups of his hands reveal a lifelong habit of preparing a forthcoming note as early as possible rather than merely moving to the next key at the moment of its arrival. A unique surviving example of a performance of the Bach Concerto No. 1 in D minor is an important addition to his exemplary Bach interpretations. This concert, along with the Schubert recital and Mozart concerto, represent a time in which the pianist was busily engaged in teaching, touring throughout the United States, Mexico, Europe, and attending performances by others, noting all the events (but not his reactions) into diaries which his wife Bice Horszowski Costa has edited and published (in both English and Italian) as Miecio: Remembrances of Mieczyslaw Horszowski (Erga Edizioni, Genova, 2002: www.erga.it), an essential biographical compendium.
The week before his Schubert recital, Horszowski performed two Sonata recitals with violinist Arthur Grumiaux (works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms). His Schubert program was first given at Carnegie Hall, New York, before being repeated in Philadelphia. Two weeks later he would attend Emil Gilels’ New York concert. Familiarity with his playing finds this Schubert evening similar to the vigorous and perceptive touch heard on his 1940 Vatican recordings. It is an unusual circumstance which allows a broad view of his Schubert interpretation, pairing a major work with significant shorter forms. Equally important is his projection of Schubert’s unique rhythm. (One mundane consideration touches this document: the last Impromptu is incomplete as the program’s length surpassed the tape reel’s capacity. As no other extant performance by Horszowski of these Impromptus survives, the importance of his art makes its inclusion necessary.) — Allan Evans ©2005
I was struck by the quiet, so focused on just the music itself, with no other factors coming into it. The first piece I studied with him was Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata (Op. 53). It was simply his whole approach, just his sitting down and playing a couple of chords from a piece which altered your perception. It wasn’t necessarily said with words. This man had one of the most profound effects on me, but it was on such a deep level of being with the music.
Chopin – there is something that transcends musical playing, it’s not simply music, it’s not simply beaurtiful, it’s not simply intelligent, it goes deeper than that. There is something in his playing no matter which composer he plays, he pulls out the essence of it, the deepest factors, even style aside. Going to the core: the essence of music rather than the music – that’s rare.
He once commented that a trill in a Chopin Nocturne sounded like a telephone ringing (stopping me with a grimace). Rachmaninoff’s Corelli Variatons: he didn’t want to teach it – “it throbs too much.” Instead he wanted to find the most well known composers, of whom he enjoyed the lesser known pieces, Debussy’s Estampes, even the Schumann Abegg Variations.
When I played Bach’s Concerto for Three Pianos with Horszowski and Rudolf Serkin at the Marlboro Festival, it wonderful because the dialog with the two of them happened in a loving, friendly way, hardly a case of their being down on me, the young upstart – that was not a factor at all. They treated me as an equal instead of turning into addressing me as the student. It remains one of the most cherished moments of my life, seeing the two of them with their varied personalities together for the beauty of the music. There wasn’t ego in either of them. The sincerity of the love of the music and the music coming before anything else was the root of it all. This is what Serkin and Horszowski had in common. I cannot believe how fortunate I was to have had such influences as teachers in my life.
–– Cynthia Raim ©2005
Note: The cadenza for the Mozart Concerto was composed by Denis Matthews on October 6, 1963, and is dedicated to Dame Myra Hess. Horszowski received an ink copy from the composer, inscribed “with my admiration and best wishes.” The score contains additional lead-ins and embellishments. Mrs. Horszowski informs us:”My husband did not use his lead-ins in the II and III movements – they are probably his own.”