Other than Rubinstein, there is no greater Chopin interpreter than Horowitz, and in his single greatest work – the second sonata which is the highlight of this disc – I find Horowitz preferable because Rubinstein takes the great funeral march of the third movement too slowly, whereas Horowitz' direct approach conveys an even deeper sense of melancholy and tragedy. That said, this is a superb sampling of Horowitz' art, even better than the first volume of this series, with unworldly playing and fine sound quality for an analogue recording. The second sonata is second to none, and the shorter pieces are all very familiar and superbly played.
Firma Melodiya continues the series of compact discs dedicated to December Evenings Festival that takes place at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. This album, like the previous one, is dedicated to the 1985 festival World of Romanticism and includes recordings featuring Sviatoslav Richter. The atmosphere of December Evenings, an event initiated by the great pianist, differed from usual philharmonic concerts. The spirit of music as an inseparable part of "fusion of arts" the romanticists dreamt of was invisibly felt in each number; a sensitive listener can catch it in these, perhaps technically imperfect, concert recordings from thirty years ago. The works by Schubert, Schumann and Chopin were performed by Sviatoslav Richter in ensemble with his outstanding contemporaries, violinist and David Oistrakh's student Oleg Kogan who passed away prematurely, violist Yuri Bashmet, cellist Natalia Gutman and clarinettist Anatoly Kamyshov.
Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt has specialized in Baroque and Classical music, and her Beethoven is about as delicate as some might expect. But there's a difference between applying delicacy to works that are not conventionally played that way, and applying it to already delicate works. There are two of each here. Hewitt runs counter to type in the early Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 2/2, and Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op. 10/1. In the Op. 10 work, perhaps a preparatory essay for the tumultuous "Pathétique" sonata that followed in the same key, Hewitt will be underpowered for many. But all is redeemed in the gentler pair, the Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major, Op. 78, and Piano Sonata No. 31 in A major, Op. 110. Hewitt takes moderate tempi in these, infusing a sense of spontaneity into the brief, tightly constructed Op. 78 and opening up the fugal counterpoint in the Op. 110 finale. Hewitt's Bachian training really applies in this work, whose first movement is also particularly raptly, almost mystically done. It's hard to offer a general judgment on this set, but for those buying online, in pieces, know that the last two selections are must-haves.
Phillips' Great Pianists of the 20th Century issue has gotten a lot of publicity in the ten or so years since it has been released. In a musical niche suffering from falling revenues, it was a decent seller. But it left many connoisseurs disappointed, as the quality was limited to the fancy packaging.
…Pizarro's Linn recordings all reveal a rich and powerful piano sound with a tremendous dynamic range and an extreme treble end that strikes my ears as much more musical than the steely-hard timbre of the high notes often heard on recordings. Part of the explanation could be that Pizarro doesn't play the typical Steinway; these recordings feature the Bluthner piano, made in the former East Germany for a century and a half. The listener is acoustically seated very close to the piano, making the wide dynamic range enough to shake you up occasionally…