The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (101): The Queen as never before

May 1982, Royal Festival Hall.

I couldn’t get a ticket.


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  • This is a wonderful and welcome series on SD.

    I have a piece to suggest if I may. After performing the Khachaturian piano concerto in Moscow, Boris Berezovsky as an encore started playing the Adagio from Spartacus very quietly (as if to himself) and after a minute or two the orchestra joined in – and it simply sweeps you away !!

  • I got one for the second recital. After that extraordinary event, I crossed the Thames for the last two acts of Tristan at Covent Garden with Vickers and Gwyneth Jones. An unforgettable day indeed.

  • And then if I remember he started with Scarlatti! My mother queued for hours to get me tickets while I was at work. He hadn’t played in England for decades. He was very nervous, no doubt because of the hoopla, the presence of HRH and the heat of the TV lights. If you want to be technical, I remember that he made some fluffs. But so what. It was hypnotic. As one of the encores, he played the Rachmaninov polka. When he got to the sforzando, the whole audience jumped out of their seats. He played a second recital a week later without royalty or distractions, and apparently it was wonderful, but I don’t think anyone recorded it.

    • There are pirates of the May 29 recital on youtube and elsewhere. Indeed Horowitz did play better that week. Horowitz was already taking the anti-depressant medications which brought a temporary halt to his career in 1983, although at lower doses here. He had good days and bad days.

    • An audience recording of the second recital on 29th May has circulated for years in piano collector circles

    • The second recital was not recorded. This was confirmed to me decades ago by an RCA insider. Patches for the concert album were taken from the rehearsal for the May 22 concert.

    • I didn’t even try.

      I was told that he was a vastly overrated pianist with a narrow repertoire and a slaphappy fingering and I should rather save my pocket money to go and see Brendel under Haitink with Beethoven.


      Gerald B.

      • So you just did as you were “told” and didn’t bother to find out for yourself!
        True, he could be chaotic, especially in his late years (he had been ill and was heavily medicated), and he narrowed an already selective repertoire…..but beyond that, there could be so much more, possibly it would have been wasted on you, maybe not.
        I noticed a few seats away, that Brendel had been curious enough to made the effort, even if it meant suffering grimly the emotional onslaughts of Rachmaninoff…..what a Calvary for poor Alf!

      • So you did what you were “told” and didn’t bother! True, H’s playing could be chaotic in his later years, especially as he was medicated and inconsistent and he’d narrowed an already selective repertoire….but there was still so much more than just that, above all a great “raconteur” at his best.
        A few seats away, i noticed A Brendel had had the curiosity to turn up, even if it meant grimly braving the emotional onslaughts of Rachmaninoff…what a Calvary for poor Alf!

        • Oh dear, two posts, as it seemed the first hadn’t been received or accepted. Fortunately i remumber roughly what i’d said!

  • I was there! I had to Q from the previous evening, but loved the experience, making friends with whom i’ve kept in touch til this day. Fortunately the night was balmy enough and sleeping bags hardly needed.

    After all that, the concert risked being an anticlimax, but for me anyway, it was a great event, hearing H’s true sonority unfilturd by the ghastly RCA and CBS wreckordings. Altho not everything was impeccable, H certainly had not lost his “raconteur” genius. And the audience; a long list of pianists active at that time were present (even A Brendel, having little sympathy for the idiom……!), the buzz was palpable, quite a party!

    At that time, God Save the Queen would have galvanoze most people to flee for the emergency exits but here it was unexpuct and i think, calmed H’s nerves as an undemanding “prelude” to his programme. A week later, his second RFH recital was less tense and musically more truly satisfying.

    Nice to hear it again, lovely memories, thank you!

    • Alfred Brendel in the audience !!
      That is a surprise, as we was rather disparaging about Horowitz.
      (Brendel has also been dismissive of other pianists with abilities vastly superior to his own. Glenn Gould, for example)

    • I quite agree about the sound quality of RCA and CBS after having heard Horowitz in concert. The sound quality on many of those recordings didn’t do him any favours

  • I was there as well. A student at the time and paid £45 for each ticket having queued from the early morning. An unforgettable concert. Horowitz’s sonority is not captured on any recording I have heard

    • Exactly. His sound. The critic Harold Schonberg said that a whole generation of young pianists ruined themselves trying to imitate
      Horowitz’s sonority. They just ended up banging.

  • I managed to get a ticket for the second recital (which was a lot better than the first).
    Had to queue for five or six hours (if memory serves; it may have been longer).
    I had never imagined that I would get to see Horowitz, whom I worshipped, in concert.
    When he walked onto the platform at the beginning of the recital the whole audience, as one, stood up.
    An unforgettable experience.

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