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What Did the Young Horowitz Sound Like?

In March of 1924, Vladimir Horowitz was a 20-year-old pianist ready to storm the gates of heaven with his soon-to-be-famous combination of bravura technique and passionate emotion. Alexander Samoilovich Petrokovsky was already an established music critic when their paths crossed in the capital of Soviet Georgia, Tiflis, which is now known as Tbilisi.

Petrokovsky, himself from Tiflis, was awed by what he saw. He sang Horowitz’s praises as a superstar, poet and deep thinker. He was mesmerized by the performance of Liszt’s monumental Sonata in B-Minor and charmed by the encore, “La Campanella,” by the same composer. Petrokovsky was effusive in his praise, if not outright worshipful. He wasn’t the only one either. An unnamed music critic published a review in a Leningrad paper during the same time period. The critic called Horowitz’s Chopin “… delicate with an astounding variety of timbre …” and noted that “His finger dexterity was incredible …” Petrokovsky’s only complaint about the recital concerned the quality of the instrument Horowitz was forced to play. He described the Becker piano as mediocre, at best, and lamented that a powerful Bechstein was available at another venue but was locked up for some undetermined reason.

Read Petrokovsky’s review from 1924 in Elijah Ho’s article on examiner.com “Liszt Night With Vladimir Horowitz”

Not suprisingly, no recording of the recital exist, but we can hear the young Horowitz play Liszt/Busoni’s Fantasia sulle Nozze di Figaro di Mozart in this piano roll recording from 1926:


/nilsjohan

  1. Delma Saunders Says:

    Thanks for this. Sounds like Horowitz’s technique has been crisp and eloquent from the beginning, as well as his musical maturity.

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