Little did we know, but starting in 1945—when he was at the height of his powers—Vladimir Horowitz engaged an engineer to record his Carnegie Hall recitals. These stunning private recordings, most on 12- and 16-inch lacquers, were among the 165 boxes of memorabilia the pianist entrusted to the music library at Yale University shortly before his death. Now, some of them are being released to the public for the first time, through a partnership of Carnegie Hall, Sony, and Yale’s Collection of Historical Sound Recordings (here I must disclose that the center where the curator of HSR and his staff do their work was a gift of my parents to Yale, and has my name on it).
So far, two CDs have been issued. Vol. 1 offers Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (from 1948) and the Liszt B minor Sonata (1949); Vol. 2 contains Schumann’s Fantasy, Op. 17 (1946), Balakirev’s Islamey (1950), the Chopin Barcarolle (1947), and the second of Liszt’s St. Francis legends (also 1947). A word about the playing: sensational! The Horowitz I knew from the 1970s and did not much love had become a cynical circus showman...but this is the Horowitz of legend. The sound is incredibly good, considering these are concert performances.