Horowitz played Poulenc

Horowitz played Poulenc


norman lebrecht

October 17, 2020

Who knew?

These are unreleased live recordings, courtesy of Mikhail Kaykov.



  • Peter says:

    He also recorded two short pieces for EMI in 1932 and three more for RCA in the late ’40s.

  • Guy says:

    Anyone who googled Horowitz and Poulenc? Laziness breeds ignorance. You really should try harder.

  • pjl says:

    he did record a few Poulenc pieces commercially, i think

  • Christopher Magyar says:

    This is wonderful! Poulenc’s piano music is sorely lacking from the concert repertoire and Horowitz plays it beautifully. The final Presto was dedicated to Horowitz.

  • David says:

    Little shards of pure Horowitz magic. What a delightful surprise on a a grey Saturday morning!

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Not a big Horowitz fan.
    (Let the deluge of downvotes come!)

    • Gaffney Feskoe says:


    • Marshall says:

      Thanks for letting us know, it’s really going to make a difference.

    • Peter Klatzow says:

      Why not, Greg?

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Thank you for asking in a non-snide way, Peter.
        There are a number of reasons I am not a fan of Horowitz.
        First of all, I don’t believe that he “played fair” with the music: his performances are 90% VH and 10% the composer. His playing of whatever composer always, to my ear, had a sort of febrile nervousness that set my teeth on edge, and his use of rubato (he was “The Last Romantic”, after all, or so said his publicists) generally struck me as inorganic and false.
        I also disliked his awful piano sound, which (according to the book written by his piano tuner from Steinway, whose name I don’t recall) he actually went to great pains to maintain – that hard, clattery, ugly, almost xylophone-like sound.
        And NONE of his performances of ANYTHING are my favorite performances; in other words, I can state that Kapell’s Rach Paganini Rhapsody is my favorite, Gulda’s Mozart Concerto #21 is my favorite, Rubinstein’s Brahms Concerto #2 is my favorite – you get the idea.
        I can’t say that for *any* Horowitz recording I am aware of – solo or concerto. One would think there might be at least one, given VH’s stellar (and, IMO, overrated) reputation and the number of records he made; but there isn’t.
        – best regards, Greg

        • Piano fan says:

          Your comment that “his performances are 90% VH and 10% the composer” is interesting given that every composer who heard Horowitz play their music (including, but not limited to Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Kabalevsky, Barber, and Poulenc) was completely convinced by the pianist.

  • YoYo Mama says:


  • Pat mercer says:

    Poulenc was a superb pianist himself . See his songs accompanying. At one point he denied his piano music . It’s so pianistic, so well written, so lyrical

  • Krisanti says:

    Absolutely love it.. beautifully played

  • Edgar Self says:

    Music for the man who is not a fan of Horowitz:

    Clementi sonatas
    Czerny Variations on ‘La Ricordanza”
    Tchaikovsky “Dumka”
    Saint-Saens – Liszt “Danse macabre”
    Liszt Paganini Etude in E-flat “Octaves” (Busoni edition)
    Schubert Impromptu in G-flat live Vienna 1986
    Rachmaninoff Prelude in G# minor Op. 23 live Moscow
    Chopin Polonaise in F# minor Op. 44
    Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3 1976 Ormandy, live
    Tchaikovsky trio movement, Stern, Rostropovich, live
    tchaikovsky first concerto, Toscanini, studio 1941

    I can’t be called a fan and never saw him play. But each of these is the best I kno and I’d have no idea how effective Tchaikovsky’s first concerto can be otherwise.

    No one has earned the right to his opinion more than Greg. If they;re not or him then they’re just nott. I pick and choose carefully. and as a rule look elsewhere. That’s the joy of the chase!

    I love Kapell and the Paganini Rhapsody but also make room for moiseiwitsch, whom Rachmaninoff also liked. Oddly, Richter liked Graffman and cited his recording as reason for not playing it.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Hello, and thank you, Edgar.
      Considering your enviable and mouth-watering concert-going experiences, I’m surprised that you never saw VH live! (I never did either.)
      I’ve heard a number of these recordings, and I’ll just comment on a couple of them.
      I have always considered that Rach 3 with Ormandy the weakest of the three VH made (that I am aware of). Try the one with Reiner – it is IMO the best of the three.
      The Tchaik 1 is a fine example of both Toscanini’s greatness as a Tchaikovsky conductor and VH’s terrible sound. Toscanini, being Toscanini, kept VH’s unnatural rubato well in check. (I also have the 1943 broadcast performance with these artists; I prefer it to the studio version.)
      There’s a CD you might want to get hold of: a Philips CD with Argerich playing both of these concertos “live” (Rach with Chailly; Tchaik with Kondrashin). The pianism is astonishing; not quite as bulletproof as Michelangeli (she comes close), but exciting to the max, completely out-Horowitzing Horowitz. And despite them being live recordings, Argerich’s sound is lovely.
      I’ve always considered the Scarlatti sonatas VH’s finest recorded effort – his dessicated tone seems to fit this music.
      – best regards, Greg
      PS: For all those commenters in the peanut galleries who might be reading our exchange and are waiting to pounce: ALL THIS IS SIMPLY PERSONAL OPINION. Don’t get your knickers in a twist!

      • Paul Carlile says:

        All fair enough, Greg, and certainly evidence that you’re not about to become a convert! However, in these recordings (Poulenc), i’m a little surprose that a grudging concession isn’t forthcoming, as the tone is far from dessicote, and the lyrical, lively, humorous spirt of the music is at least 80%+ Poulenc, with a small obligatory dose of VH!

        I first heard VH thru the notorious 78s of Tchaik1 with Toscanini and, obviously, sound quality wasn’t the first striking feature. Then it was the HMV “Great Recordings of the Century,” Then the RCA LPs- ghastly sound (but same for Ruby!), then CBS LPs -ghastly (but same for Serkin….), so i conclode that American piano recordings were mostly hopeless (ditto for much orchestral recording with honorable exceptions; Chicago/Reiner, for example). When i heard VH live, i was almost shocked at how different was his sound; much more open, singing and varied…. the final performances i heard (1986), were better than the previous, simply cos he’d come off his excessive medication.

        I realise that VH with certain other highly individual artits (Callas, Heifetz….), will remain controversial and problematic, especially if one starts with a disagreeable first encounter. My mother heard his London début and followed him devotedly thereafter. She recalled the “purity” of his sound and the hypnotic effect of his Chopin! (She also heard early Heifetz-loved it, and London débuts of Menuhin -disloke, and never recovered, and later Ida Haendel- loved her and followed forever! Incidentally, she sang under the baton of Toscanini in BBC chorus- “a real hypnotist: you would die for him!”).

        This returns to my original (“testy!”) comment about the different perceptions of some of these greats, and how one man’s meat is another man’s poison, and there’s rarely an understanding or a shift of position possible, altho one commenter on the original post said he’d “hated” Callas for years, then was increasingly drawn to her genius……that’s very encouraging.
        Best regards.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Many thanks, Greg. I like your “bulletproof” Michelngeli and intend to steal it. I started to name Scarlatti with Clementi but lost courage. Wanda brought Volodya complete editions from Iitaly.

    I was unlucky not to hear Horowitiz’s last recital in Chicago, but stupid not to hear him in Oakland in better years. Argerich is a wonder, fast, rich for the blood, and yet … and yet … as you say, peronal. We take art, music, everything really, personally, which makes life interesting. Saludos!

    • Paul Carlile says:

      Thank you, sir, for an excellent list, even if some of those choices would remain controversial. Clementi and Czerny are certainly outstanding and i would have included Scarlatti Sonatas, but arriving late to reply, i see this has already been discussed.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Thank you very much, Paul Carlile, for your posts about Horowitz, and for writing aout your mother’s thoughts of him and Toscanini. My list is heavy on live recordings, and those with charm he was often charged with lacking, and which first came as a surprise to me.