Horowitz's reading of the Rach third

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SaulChanukah

Horowitz's reading of the Rach third

Post by SaulChanukah » Thu Aug 02, 2007 7:14 pm

There is something amazing about his performance. He plays it as he would play an easy Mozart sonata.

For me its the best reading of this work..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1hgzvuR-tk

SaulChanukah

Post by SaulChanukah » Thu Aug 02, 2007 7:18 pm

oops I should have posted it on the music section...

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Post by Donald Isler » Thu Aug 02, 2007 7:19 pm

Have you heard his original recording of this work, made when he was in his twenties? (I think it was the first ever recording of this concerto, made even before Rachmaninoff recorded it.) It's still more impressive!

Also, how come this thread is on the pub?
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SaulChanukah

Post by SaulChanukah » Thu Aug 02, 2007 7:22 pm

Donald Isler wrote:Have you heard his original recording of this work, made when he was in his twenties? (I think it was the first ever recording of this concerto, made even before Rachmaninoff recorded it.) It's still more impressive!

Also, how come this thread is on the pub?
No I have not heard the early recording......

Rachmaninov told Horowitz that he played the Concerto better then him, to which Horowitz replied :

That's right!

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Post by slofstra » Fri Aug 03, 2007 2:13 pm

Beg to differ. I know both Horowitz and Martha Argerich are acclaimed for their recordings. (I didn't follow the 'youtube' link, but I have Horowitz's 1951 recording on RCA). I prefer a little less speed and pyrotechnics and more control. If there is a run of 1/32 notes, I want to hear each note individually, exactly fingered. And those harp like splashes across the keyboard, should sound like a harp.

So my vote goes to Volodos. And #2 is Ashkenazy.

Does anyone know if either Rubinstein or Kapell recorded this work? Both have very fine 2nd concerto recordings.

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Post by Donald Isler » Fri Aug 03, 2007 2:50 pm

I don't believe that Rubinstein played the 3rd Concerto, nor did Josef Hofmann, for whom it was written, but Joe Patrych, and probably Lance could answer that question for sure.
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Rach 3rd's

Post by Jppiano » Sat Aug 04, 2007 8:38 am

To my knowledge, neither Rubinstein nor Hofmann ever performed Rach 3 publicly. There is no commercial recording bty Kapell, but there IS a live one from Toronto from April 23, 1948 with Ernest Macmillan and the Toronto Symphony (available on VAI). There is also one from 1953 from his last Australian tour, but it has not been issued as yet.

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Re: Rach 3rd's

Post by slofstra » Sat Aug 04, 2007 9:58 am

Jppiano wrote:To my knowledge, neither Rubinstein nor Hofmann ever performed Rach 3 publicly. There is no commercial recording bty Kapell, but there IS a live one from Toronto from April 23, 1948 with Ernest Macmillan and the Toronto Symphony (available on VAI). There is also one from 1953 from his last Australian tour, but it has not been issued as yet.

Joe P.
I find that interesting, since both are accomplished pianists (well, more than accomplished, certainly two of my favourites), and both recorded at least the Second and the Paganini.
Is it fair to speculate that they felt undone by the difficulty of the piece with respect to their very high performance standards? Note - this is quite a different thing from saying they couldn't play it. In fact, I'm not even suggesting they weren't equal to the task of putting out a top quality rendition. But it seems like an iceberg they chose to go around rather than through.
Another aspect of this, no doubt, is that in 1950 or 1960 the piece had not assumed its present day colossal proportions in the public imagination.
Thoughts?

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Recordings of Rach 2 and Paganini

Post by Jppiano » Sat Aug 04, 2007 10:07 am

While Rubinstein did record both the 2nd and Paganini, Hofmann did not record either. Kapell, of course, also recorded both, as well (there is also a live perf extant of both pieces with Kapell).

Joe P.

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Post by Donald Isler » Sat Aug 04, 2007 10:14 am

Slofstra wrote:

"Another aspect of this, no doubt, is that in 1950 or 1960 the piece had not assumed its present day colossal proportions in the public imagination."


Really?? I was not aware that this was the case. I was under the impression that, since at least the 30's, when Horowitz and Rachmaninoff made spectacular recordings of it, that it was acknowledged as one of the biggest blockbusters of the repertoire.

And I recall hearing Ashknazy play it at Carnegie Hall around 1968 quite terrifically. (Never was as excited hearing him playing anything else as I was on this occasion.) I didn't have the impression that this was a rarely played work.
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Rach 3 in the 50-60's

Post by Jppiano » Sat Aug 04, 2007 10:32 am

Actually, the 3rd was being played quite a lot by the early 50's - pianists who performed it quite regularly included Horowitz, Earl Wild, Cyril Smith, Witold Malcuzynski and a number of Russians, including Gilels (who played it here in 1955) and Maria Grinberg. Of course, Cliburn played it a lot after winning the Tchaikovsky in 1958.
It is also interesting to note that there were only 3 commercial recordings in the entire 78 RPM era: Horowitz with Coates (1930), Rachmaninoff with Ormandy (1942, I believe) and Cyril Smith - since the LP era, there have been more than 150 (mostly in the CD era). Ashkenazy is the champ of commercial recordings, having done it 4 times (with Fistoulari, Previn, Ormandy & Haitink) and I believe is the only pianist to have recorded both cadenzas (the smaller one with Fistoulari, and the bigger (alternate) one with the other 3 conductors. Horowitz has had 3 commercial issues (Coates, Reiner & Ormandy), plus the live video from 1978 with Mehta). There is also a AS disc of a live performance with Koussevitsky from the Hollywood bowl, Aug 23, 1950. A number of pianists have recorded it twice, including Gilels, Malcuzynski, Weissenberg, Gavrilov, and Cliburn (both live - one is only available on a very obscure melodya disc).

Joe P.

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Post by Werner » Sat Aug 04, 2007 11:36 am

AS, Joe? I don't see those initials in your post - did I miss something? And to me, the name that comes to mind with the AS initials is Artur Schnabel - who I'm quite sure never recorded or played this one.
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hey, Werner - sorry for the confusion!

Post by Jppiano » Sat Aug 04, 2007 11:42 am

What I meant was that there is a CD on the label AS DISC of Horowitz doing the Rach 3rd with Koussevitsky. Sorry!

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Re: Horowitz's reading of the Rach third

Post by Brahms » Sat Aug 04, 2007 12:03 pm

SaulChanukah wrote:There is something amazing about his performance.
It is an amazing performance. And I rate Cliburn just as highly.

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Post by Donald Isler » Sat Aug 04, 2007 1:02 pm

Just checked the recording dates of Rachmaninoff's own recording. They are December 4, 1939 and February 24, 1940.
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Post by slofstra » Sat Aug 04, 2007 1:47 pm

Donald Isler wrote:Slofstra wrote:

"Another aspect of this, no doubt, is that in 1950 or 1960 the piece had not assumed its present day colossal proportions in the public imagination."


Really?? I was not aware that this was the case. I was under the impression that, since at least the 30's, when Horowitz and Rachmaninoff made spectacular recordings of it, that it was acknowledged as one of the biggest blockbusters of the repertoire.

And I recall hearing Ashknazy play it at Carnegie Hall around 1968 quite terrifically. (Never was as excited hearing him playing anything else as I was on this occasion.) I didn't have the impression that this was a rarely played work.
I said the 'public' imagination. Probably 1,000 times more people were exposed to the piece through the movie 'Shine', than all the Carnegie Hall audiences combined, ever. But don't you think that Rachmaninov was not taken all that seriously as a composer, 40-50 years ago?

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Post by Donald Isler » Sat Aug 04, 2007 2:08 pm

Slofstra wrote:

"Probably 1,000 times more people were exposed to the piece through the movie 'Shine', than all the Carnegie Hall audiences combined, ever. But don't you think that Rachmaninov was not taken all that seriously as a composer, 40-50 years ago?"

Ironic that so many people should become acquainted with it through THAT performance!

But, concerning attitudes towards the Concerto 40 or 50 years ago: I was a kid then, so I may be mistaken, but I'm not aware that things were so different in that regard at that time.
Last edited by Donald Isler on Sat Aug 04, 2007 3:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Lance » Sat Aug 04, 2007 3:14 pm

Well, our good friend Joe Patrych answered the question about Artur Rubinstein and Josef Hofmann recording the Rach 3. How I wish they did! The early EMI Horowitz/Coates recording is quite extraordinary. Joe alludes to the AS Disc performance—No. 550 in the AS Disc catalogue, long unavailable now—was with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Koussevitzky, recorded live on August 31, 1950. Biddulph also brought out the same performance [036] (probably lifted from AS Disc) and Urania also brought it out [22.191], which I think is a direct copy of the AS Disc since it also contains the Mussorgsky's "Pictures," on AS, but not (I believe) Night on Bald Mountain. I can't tell you how excited I became when I finally was able to hear Horowitz under the baton of Koussevitzky. What a great collaboration!
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Post by slofstra » Sat Aug 04, 2007 3:45 pm

Lance wrote:Well, our good friend Joe Patrych answered the question about Artur Rubinstein and Josef Hofmann recording the Rach 3. How I wish they did! The early EMI Horowitz/Coates recording is quite extraordinary. Joe alludes to the AS Disc performance—No. 550 in the AS Disc catalogue, long unavailable now—was with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Koussevitzky, recorded live on August 31, 1950. Biddulph also brought out the same performance [036] (probably lifted from AS Disc) and Urania also brought it out [22.191], which I think is a direct copy of the AS Disc since it also contains the Mussorgsky's "Pictures," on AS, but not (I believe) Night on Bald Mountain. I can't tell you how excited I became when I finally was able to hear Horowitz under the baton of Koussevitzky. What a great collaboration!
The Horowitz I have is with Reiner. And that's the one I played the other night to confirm my longstanding impression mentioned above. I suppose its all relative. How does the Reiner compare with either the Koussevitsky or the Coates or the Ormandy or the Mehta?

Another thing that hurts the old RCA recording is the typically wobbly pitch and poor dynamics. Modern sound recording techniques really bring out the subtleties and dynamics of this hugely varied ultra-Romantic score. The cymbal crashes at the end of the 2nd movement for example. With my Volodos recording the room shakes - that's without turning up the volume - the dynamics are just superb.

SaulChanukah

Re: Rach 3rd's

Post by SaulChanukah » Sat Aug 04, 2007 9:19 pm

slofstra wrote:
Jppiano wrote:To my knowledge, neither Rubinstein nor Hofmann ever performed Rach 3 publicly. There is no commercial recording bty Kapell, but there IS a live one from Toronto from April 23, 1948 with Ernest Macmillan and the Toronto Symphony (available on VAI). There is also one from 1953 from his last Australian tour, but it has not been issued as yet.

Joe P.
I find that interesting, since both are accomplished pianists (well, more than accomplished, certainly two of my favourites), and both recorded at least the Second and the Paganini.
Is it fair to speculate that they felt undone by the difficulty of the piece with respect to their very high performance standards? Note - this is quite a different thing from saying they couldn't play it. In fact, I'm not even suggesting they weren't equal to the task of putting out a top quality rendition. But it seems like an iceberg they chose to go around rather than through.
Another aspect of this, no doubt, is that in 1950 or 1960 the piece had not assumed its present day colossal proportions in the public imagination.
Thoughts?

On the booklet of the Rachmaninov's second piano concerto Played By Rubinstein, the Great virtuoso said that Rachmaninov's music lacks nobility, an ingredient that separates great music from not great. I was very surprised to read this comment made by Rubinstein. Perhaps, the Second concerto was little more "old fashioned" more romantic and had some 'Nobility" for Rubinstein to play it, but the 3rd was something totally new or even "Avante grade" and maybe Rubinstein didn’t feel like playing it for he found no "nobility" in it at all.

P.S your "accomplished pianists' comment was amusing....

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Re: Rach 3rd's

Post by slofstra » Sat Aug 04, 2007 11:07 pm

SaulChanukah wrote:
slofstra wrote:
Jppiano wrote:To my knowledge, neither Rubinstein nor Hofmann ever performed Rach 3 publicly. There is no commercial recording bty Kapell, but there IS a live one from Toronto from April 23, 1948 with Ernest Macmillan and the Toronto Symphony (available on VAI). There is also one from 1953 from his last Australian tour, but it has not been issued as yet.

Joe P.
I find that interesting, since both are accomplished pianists (well, more than accomplished, certainly two of my favourites), and both recorded at least the Second and the Paganini.
Is it fair to speculate that they felt undone by the difficulty of the piece with respect to their very high performance standards? Note - this is quite a different thing from saying they couldn't play it. In fact, I'm not even suggesting they weren't equal to the task of putting out a top quality rendition. But it seems like an iceberg they chose to go around rather than through.
Another aspect of this, no doubt, is that in 1950 or 1960 the piece had not assumed its present day colossal proportions in the public imagination.
Thoughts?

On the booklet of the Rachmaninov's second piano concerto Played By Rubinstein, the Great virtuoso said that Rachmaninov's music lacks nobility, an ingredient that separates great music from not great. I was very surprised to read this comment made by Rubinstein. Perhaps, the Second concerto was little more "old fashioned" more romantic and had some 'Nobility" for Rubinstein to play it, but the 3rd was something totally new or even "Avante grade" and maybe Rubinstein didn’t feel like playing it for he found no "nobility" in it at all.

P.S your "accomplished pianists' comment was amusing....
That's quite interesting and fits with a few things I read on the web today. The idea was floated that although Rachmaninov's reputation was secure as a pianist, as a composer there was some doubt - in the years after his death. That reputation was built through the advocacy of various pianists and conductors who played his work. It appears that Rubinstein was not one of those.
Also, if you read my first sentence entirely, you'll see that I recognize that 'accomplished pianists' somewhat understates the case. But anytime I can amuse the likes of SaulChanukah, I have to feel good about it. :)

SaulChanukah

Re: Rach 3rd's

Post by SaulChanukah » Sun Aug 05, 2007 7:22 am

slofstra wrote:
SaulChanukah wrote:
slofstra wrote:
Jppiano wrote:To my knowledge, neither Rubinstein nor Hofmann ever performed Rach 3 publicly. There is no commercial recording bty Kapell, but there IS a live one from Toronto from April 23, 1948 with Ernest Macmillan and the Toronto Symphony (available on VAI). There is also one from 1953 from his last Australian tour, but it has not been issued as yet.

Joe P.
I find that interesting, since both are accomplished pianists (well, more than accomplished, certainly two of my favourites), and both recorded at least the Second and the Paganini.
Is it fair to speculate that they felt undone by the difficulty of the piece with respect to their very high performance standards? Note - this is quite a different thing from saying they couldn't play it. In fact, I'm not even suggesting they weren't equal to the task of putting out a top quality rendition. But it seems like an iceberg they chose to go around rather than through.
Another aspect of this, no doubt, is that in 1950 or 1960 the piece had not assumed its present day colossal proportions in the public imagination.
Thoughts?

On the booklet of the Rachmaninov's second piano concerto Played By Rubinstein, the Great virtuoso said that Rachmaninov's music lacks nobility, an ingredient that separates great music from not great. I was very surprised to read this comment made by Rubinstein. Perhaps, the Second concerto was little more "old fashioned" more romantic and had some 'Nobility" for Rubinstein to play it, but the 3rd was something totally new or even "Avante grade" and maybe Rubinstein didn’t feel like playing it for he found no "nobility" in it at all.

P.S your "accomplished pianists' comment was amusing....
That's quite interesting and fits with a few things I read on the web today. The idea was floated that although Rachmaninov's reputation was secure as a pianist, as a composer there was some doubt - in the years after his death. That reputation was built through the advocacy of various pianists and conductors who played his work. It appears that Rubinstein was not one of those.
Also, if you read my first sentence entirely, you'll see that I recognize that 'accomplished pianists' somewhat understates the case. But anytime I can amuse the likes of SaulChanukah, I have to feel good about it. :)
Cool... but you should delete this remark anyhows.... it just doesnt fit there.

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Post by John F » Sun Aug 05, 2007 1:05 pm

Rachmaninoff composed the 3rd concerto supposedly with Josef Hofmann in mind, but he somehow failed to keep in mind that Hofmann had quite small hands--he played a custom-made Steinway with slightly narrower keys. Rachmaninoff's own hands were enormous, of course. No doubt Hofmann tried the concerto over in private and couldn't manage some of its passages as written. And he was not the kind of man to go to Rachmaninoff and ask him to make the piece easier.

Horowitz's performance with the New York Philharmonic, when he was 75, is really astonishing. He actually takes the finale at very nearly the same tempo as in the fabled recording with Reiner, and if there are a few finger slips here and there, who cares? If others, including Horowitz himself, could give a "cleaner" performance in the recording studio with the help of retakes and an editor, that takes nothing away from Horowitz's achievement.
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Post by Bösendorfer » Sun Aug 05, 2007 3:22 pm

There actually is a sixth commercial recording with Horowitz (Barbirolli/NYPO/1941), see here.
There are comments on all six, and on some recordings with other pianists at

http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/Strasse ... 3Page.html

(a great site by a not-so-active member of this forum, which has been mentioned a few times).

Florian

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Post by slofstra » Sun Aug 05, 2007 7:17 pm

I've seen that site many times, and upon occasion have linked to it. Do you know his handle at CMG?

I like his Rach reviews because he states his biases out front. That is: passion over control. I prefer control - to me, I like the music to speak for itself, if that makes any sense. Here's a sentence from his Volodos review:
"Impeccable! And believe it or not, it is a live performance! Everything he does is 'right', but it would be even better if he could take more chances." (Piano wizard)

In general I'm not as fond of prodigies as aesthetes. (If we can divide pianists that way, and it might be fun to try). But I hope I'm not perceived as trying to "take away from Horowitz's achievement". These are all top flight performances - at that level I think it comes down to personal preference.

Mr. Piano wizard also really dislikes the Previn/Ashkenazy recording which I'm very fond of. I have a working theory (I made it up 5 minutes ago) that a pianist listens differently from a non-pianist. He can assess and admire the pianism of the perfomer, in fact, cannot avoid doing so. I don't have this ability - I can go only on the sound. So when I read "it would be even better if he could take more chances", it seems that 'Piano wizard' wants to be impressed by the pianism. Whereas the subtleties of 'pianism' are lost on me.

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Post by slofstra » Sun Aug 05, 2007 7:28 pm

Saul wrote: Cool... but you should delete this remark anyhows.... it just doesnt fit there.
Anh. It's a forum. I just hack away at it. Sometimes it's good, sometimes ...

A few weeks ago I responded to an article on controversies around 'String Theory' that Corlyss posted in the pub. Then I emailed my son, a student, who has more than a passing interest in the subject, and asked him for some input on the article (which I had criticized by the way). He said, "It's a good article, but old hat, everyone knows about these controversies." And he added, "But that CMG poster doesn't know what he's talking about". I emailed back, "Uh, I think that poster was me." "Whoops, sorry!" came the reply.

SaulChanukah

Post by SaulChanukah » Mon Aug 06, 2007 7:24 am

slofstra wrote:
Saul wrote: Cool... but you should delete this remark anyhows.... it just doesnt fit there.
Anh. It's a forum. I just hack away at it. Sometimes it's good, sometimes ...

A few weeks ago I responded to an article on controversies around 'String Theory' that Corlyss posted in the pub. Then I emailed my son, a student, who has more than a passing interest in the subject, and asked him for some input on the article (which I had criticized by the way). He said, "It's a good article, but old hat, everyone knows about these controversies." And he added, "But that CMG poster doesn't know what he's talking about". I emailed back, "Uh, I think that poster was me." "Whoops, sorry!" came the reply.
:lol:

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Post by Bösendorfer » Wed Aug 08, 2007 2:31 pm

slofstra wrote:I've seen that site many times, and upon occasion have linked to it. Do you know his handle at CMG?
I think it's Kwoon - at least in his profile the page is listed as his web page.

As for Rach 3 recordings, I am not sure which style I prefer (it's also not exactly my favourite p.c.).
So far I have only heard recordings of Horowitz and Rachmaninov himself. You make me
curious about Volodos!

Florian

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Post by slofstra » Wed Aug 08, 2007 2:57 pm

Based on those you have, I would obtain the Volodos for the recording quality alone! I had a look around the 'fanfare' magazine and while there is no direct review, this is often used as a point of comparison. Other recent issues include: Lang Lang and Pletnev.

Another way to get a newer Rach 3 recording, if you enjoy watching DVDs and have good sound on your home theatre is to buy a DVD called "Cliburn - Playing on the Edge", an award winning PBS documentary. Anyway, it includes a nice 'special feature' of Olga Kern playing the Rach 3. It's not a standout recording but quite credible, and she is not hard to watch as she plays the music. She won a gold award for this performance. The documentary is really good!

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