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Vladimir Horowitz
Behind the scenes notes for the Carnegie Hall set.
Article By Jon M. Samuels

 

Vladimir Horowitz

  In early 1989, I was asked by the distinguished music critic, Harold C. Schonberg, to compile a discography to be added to his soon to be published Vladimir Horowitz biography.  In order to do so properly, I needed to track down and listen to every surviving Horowitz recording that I could locate.

By September 1990, in part due to my Horowitz discography, I was hired by BMG (the successor to RCA) to remaster their historic recordings, including many of Horowitz' own.  Over the next thirteen years, I looked for every Horowitz recording I could find in the BMG vaults.  (Although it may be hard to believe, RCA did not keep paper records of what concerts they recorded of any artist, let alone Horowitz, so this turned out to be a monumental task.)  Among other things, I discovered that many of the unedited concert tapes no longer survived in their original form.  At the time these recordings were made, no one thought of them as important historical documents worth preserving for posterity.  Their purpose was simply as raw material for a final edited, released LP.  Sadly, very often the original tapes were discarded after the edited masters were approved.  Still, I was able to find many bits and pieces, here and there.  For example, I found part of one recital as tape "padding" on an unrelated Horowitz tape.  I also turned out to be very lucky; one day a friend and fellow record collector found LP test pressings of Horowitz' three 1950s recitals, unedited, and was kind enough to buy them for me.

In 2003, I remastered my first Horowitz' Carnegie Hall recital (from November 16, 1975) for BMG.  In 2009, I produced a seventy CD set of the complete issued RCA and Columbia recordings for Sony Masterworks (the successor to BMG).  In the process, I was asked to choose two live recitals for inclusion as bonus material.  In order to do so, I had to carefully listen to all of the Horowitz recitals recorded by RCA and Columbia.  I made copious and very detailed notes about every one of these recitals, including what was on each tape, where the edits were, what (if anything) was missing, what the proper playback equalization and mix should be and what technical flaws could be found on each tape.  One of the recitals I chose for inclusion was the March 5, 1951 Carnegie Hall concert.

In the meantime, Sony planned to issue three complete Horowitz Carnegie Hall recital recordings owned by Yale University.  (Horowitz paid to have them recorded in the late 1940s and early 1950s direct-to-disc, and then donated the discs to Yale in the 1980s.)  Since I had remastered all five of the previously released CDs of "Yale" material, I was asked to choose and remaster the three recitals to be included.  Sony also thought it worthwhile to add all the previously released "live" (but edited and incomplete) Horowitz concerts recorded in Carnegie Hall, and make a large set out of it.  I recommended instead that they include ALL the live (and this time, unedited) Horowitz concerts recorded by RCA and Columbia.  They didn't believe that such a project was possible, but I explained that I had already done a great deal of the necessary work back in 2009, so they agreed.

Perhaps I didn't know what I was letting myself in for.  As it turned out, from March to July of this year, I worked sixteen to twenty hours a day, seven days a week in order to finish tracking down, transferring, "unediting", patching, equalizing, correcting pitch fluctuations and mixing these concerts.

I also supplied the stereo sound track to the bonus DVD, "Horowitz on Television".  I thought I would never finish! Fortunately, though, I did, and the results are amazing.  Not so much for my work, but for Horowitz' playing.  For here we hear him in his element, before a live audience.  We hear the concerts exactly as he programmed them.  We may not be literally able to attend an actual Horowitz recital anymore, but this is the next best thing -- with a little imagination, we are there.  We become part of the audience ourselves, and it's just thrilling.  And for me, that makes all of this worthwhile.

 

Jon M. Samuels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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