Vladimir Horowitz plays Russian Works
It was understandable that RCA's engineers should have placed their microphones close to the piano when Horowitz played Pictures at an Exhibition live in Carnegie Hall. The result, however, is a sound-quality which comes over as rather canned and restricted, and which threatens to diminish the performance. Horowitz's virtuosity is extraordinary, but he shows some subtle and imaginative touches too, one of which makes the normally well-behaved audience chuckle. Overall, there is a certain remoteness in his conception of the work, though in the last few minutes he builds climax upon climax to thrilling effect. The short transcription from the Sunless song cycle is very effective.
The Tchaikovsky is taken from the May 1941 studio recorded 78s, and not from the April 1943 broadcast by Horowitz and Toscanini, which is already available (RCA (CD) GD87992, 12/90). I haven't been able to compare the two, but would add that there are those who find the live version even more exciting than the studio recording. On its own, however, this 1941 performance is of a kind which makes one listen seriously to the over-familiar work again, and find details that have never been apparent before. Toscanini was not noted as a good accompanist, but with his son-in-law as soloist to inspire him he puts his formidable heart and soul into the undertaking. Horowitz performs in an inspired fashion throughout the work, and once again with amazing technique, though in the slow movement he relaxes a little to produce some delicate playing. The recording is very much lacking in atmosphere and tonal splendour, but is clear and efficient.'