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How will You Sound on Horowitz’s CD 503?

Steinway & Sons recently announced that Vladimir Horowitz’s legendary Steinway Model D continues its tour through 2014. This is a unique chance for the public to see, hear and even play the master’s favorite instrument – the Steinway CD 503 – used on his tours during his last years 1985-89.

The CD 503 has a very light and extremely touch-sensitive action. It has a crashing, thunderous bass and a transparent treble. While many pianists who have tried the piano agree that the action is even and it is a pleasure to play the instrument, it is clearly not the only magic bullet required to reach Horowitz’s level of artistic mastery.
Hear the master and his instrument in this legendary recital:

Recital: Horowitz in Vienna (1987)

Mozart Rondo in D, K. 485
Mozart – Sonata in B-flat, K. 333:
Mvt. 1: Allegro
Mvt. 2: Andante cantabile
Mvt. 3: Allegretto grazioso

Schubert – Impromptu in G-flat, op. 90 no. 3
Schubert/Liszt – SoirĂ©es de Vienne, no. 6

SCHUMANN – Kinderszenen, op. 15
1. Von fremden Ländern und Menschen
2. Kuriose Geschichte
3. Hasche-Mann
4. Bittendes Kind
5. GlĂĽckes genug
6. Wichtige Begebenheit
7. Träumerei
8. Am Kamin
9. Ritter vom Steckenpferd
10. Fast zu ernst
11. FĂĽrchtenmachen
12. Kind im Einschlummern
13. Der Dichter spricht

Chopin – Mazurka, op. 33 no. 4
Chopin – Polonaise in A-flat, op. 53
Liszt – Consolation no.3 in D-flat,
Schubert – Moment Musical in F minor, op. 94 no. 3
Moszkowski – Etincelles, op.26 no. 6

Documentary from 1985:

The Last Romantic (82 min.)

The long career of the last romantic

Described as the greatest pianist since Franz Liszt, Horowitz’s world wide career spanned nearly 70 years since his debut in 1920. Horowitz evidently suffered from anxiety and depression which led to long career breaks, especially from 1953-65 and from 1969-74.
In 1985, Horowitz returned to concertizing and recording. His first post-retirement appearance was not on stage, but in the documentary film Vladimir Horowitz: The Last Romantic. In 1986 and as a consequence of the new relation between the USA and the USSR, Horowitz returned for the first time since 1925 for concerts in Moscow and Leningrad. Following the Russian concerts, Horowitz toured several European cities including Berlin, Amsterdam, and London. The final tour took place in Europe in 1987 and his legendary recital at the Musikverein in Vienna was documented on a video which was released by Deutsche Grammophone in 1991. His final recital, in Hamburg, Germany, took place on June 21, 1987.

Reader questions

  • What, besides the unique instrument, makes Horowitz’s playing so exceptional?
  • Which is your favourite Horowitz recording?
  • If you have played the CD 503, what was your impression?


Congratulations Mr. Graffman!

Pianist Gary Graffman turned 85 this month. In a musical career that has spanned seven of those 8 1/2 decades, Mr. Graffman has experienced everything from entering the prestigious Curtis Institute at the age of seven, the accidental, self-inflicted destruction of his right hand’s dexterity to becoming one of the most prominent educators in the US.

As he recently reminisced, he was likely the first pianist to have recorded extensive repertoire with the five most prominent American orchestras: New York, Cleveland, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. The so called OYAPs (Outstanding Young American Pianists) in the 1940s and ’50s, Gary Graffman and his pals Leon Fleisher, Eugene Istomin and Jacob Lateiner became the tidal wave of new US pianistic talent sweeping through the international concert halls.

Birthday box

In celebration of Mr. Graffman’s milestone birthday, Sony Classical has released a collection of all of his recordings in a limited-edition set. Together with 13 LPs, this 24-CD collection includes many recordings that have never before been on CD. Sony Classical has remastered the original analog tapes, and Mr. Graffman’s full prowess is on magnificent display. Notable are performances of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1964 with Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic), Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto (1966 with Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra), Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Prokofiev Piano Sonatas and one of the first recordings in the West of Tchaikovsky’s Second and Third Piano Concertos (with Ormandy). His solo recital repertoire is represented by a generous selection of Brahms (including the Paganini Variations), Chopin, Liszt and Schumann (Carnaval and the Symphonic Etudes). There is also a reissue of what may be Graffman’s most widely heard recorded performance Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (from the soundtrack of the 1979 Woody Allen movie Manhattan) which was one of the last times he used both hands at the keyboard.

Listen & Read

Gary Graffman in “For the Love of Music”
From the series of radio programs titled “For the Love of Music,” hosted by David Dubal on WNCN-FM, New York. Guest is pianist Gary Graffman. This program was originally broadcast on October 21, 1983.

Gary Graffman Lecture on Piano Traditions

Gary Graffman’s book (1982) I really Should Be Practicing

How a lousy piano in Berlin can cause focal dystonia

Mr. Graffman had studied with Horowitz and Serkin, won the Leventritt Competition, and had the musical world by the tail at the pinnacle of his career in the early 1970s. No one knew, maybe not even Gary himself, what he had been doing to his right hand ever since a 1967 concert with the Berlin Philharmonic where he was to play the Tchaikovsky B-flat Minor Piano Concerto. As Mr. Graffman remarked, the piano was lousy and had two particularly dead-sounding octaves above middle-C. He said that you could have hit it with a sledgehammer and the orchestra would have still covered it. There was no time to get another piano, so he soldiered on through the concert. Having to pummel the keys to get the sound and projection the Tchaikovsky demands, Graffman sprained his right-hand pinkie.

After surviving his way through the rest of that performance, he never sought medical treatment or took a break. He had concerts to do, so he altered his right-hand fingering patterns to ignore the injured finger. Ten years later, he noticed he was making mistakes where he never made them before. Two years after that, his right hand was useless, crippled by focal dystonia. Unless he wanted to play left-hand concertos, his playing career was over.

The left hand career

Mr. Graffman handled the crushing disappointment with dignity. With remarkable courage, Mr. Graffman also commissioned seven works for the left hand, which included Ned Rorem’s Piano Concerto No. 4 and one for two left-hand-only pianists that he performed with his lifelong friend Leon Fleisher (William Bolcom’s Gaea). In much the same way as his Mr. Fleisher did after his own diagnosis of focal dystonia, Mr. Graffman turned to teaching. He chose his alma mater, and has been at the Curtis Institute ever since. From 1980 to 1995, he was an instructor and was, until recently, the Institute’s president. Although he currently teaches six or seven students, he no longer runs the distinguished Philadelphia school. In a recent interview, he stated that he never would have joined Curtis had he continued concertizing. He also said that teaching others had been a real pleasure. Mr. Graffman counts Lang Lang, Ignat Solzhenitsyn, Yuja Wang and Haochen Chang among his former students.

Examiner: Interview with pianist Gary Graffman


Horowitz at the White House 1978

In Performance at the White House has been produced since 1978 and the music series spans every administration since President Carter’s. The series began with Horowitz in the East Room and this legendary recital.
Since then, In Performance at the White House has embraced virtually every genre of American performance: pop, country, gospel, jazz, blues, theatre and dance among them. The series was created to showcase the rich fabric of American culture in the setting of the nation’s most famous home.

Horowitz at the White House is one of Horowitz’s relatively few authorized appearances on video and one of only four TV broadcasts. Recorded and Broadcast on PBS in February 26, 1978 – live from The White House, Washington. President Carter invited Horowitz to perform at the White House early in his Presidency and Horowitz agreed during his Golden Jubilee year, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his American debut.

Horowitz was invited to the White House to play for President Hoover as early as in 1931, and in 1933 he married Wanda Toscanini — the daughter of the famous conductor Arturo Toscanini, who would soon conduct Horowitz and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in performances of the Beethoven piano concertos. Horowitz permanently settled in the United States in 1940 and achieved citizenship in 1944. In 1986 Horowitz was invited by President Reagan anticipating Horowitz’s return to Russia (after 61 years) and Moscow concert which politically was seen as a part of the ongoing “perestroika”.


02:23 – 05:00 President Jimmy Carter’s introduction
05:18 US National Anthem played by Horowitz

Chopin – Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35:
07:13 I Grave – Doppio movimento
14:35 II Scherzo
22:00 III Marche funèbre: Lento
31:03 IV Finale: Presto

33:21 Chopin – Waltz Op. 34 no. 2 in A minor
39:33 Chopin – Waltz Op. 64 no. 2 in C-sharp minor
43:43 Chopin – Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53 “Heroic”

51:23 Schumann: Träumerei from Kinderszenen Op. 15
54:50 Rachmaninoff: Polka de W.R.
59:28 Bizet/Horowitz: Carmen Variations


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