Sunday, October 19, 1986

Vladimir Horowitz in Boston

I heard Horowitz live on this date - October 19, 1986 - at Symphony Hall in Boston.

I sat in the last row of the top balcony, and Horowitz's quietest notes projected to my ears, while the bass notes in Scriabin's Etude Op. 8, No. 12, clanged like deep  hourly bell of Big Ben.

Despite his age, 83, the playing was more polished than most recitals he was playing at that time. (There was the briefest of memory lapses in the Schumann Arabeske, which only professionals would have noticed, and which did not detract from the unforgettable legato.) For me the high point of the concert were the Scriabin Etudes (stunning) and Chopin Mazurka (melancholy, with a slight flirtation in the rhythm).  He was able to maintain an astonishing tempo in Chopin's B Minor Scherzo (a far superior performance to his 1985 recording), but held back on the dynamics until the coda - which he ended with his usual interlocking octaves instead of chromatic scales.

Horowitz always liked Symphony Hall, and perhaps its acoustics were a factor, as his performance here was superior to his Moscow recital. He also seemed to be in a good mood today.

As he left the hall after the concert, he shook the hands of several people, including myself, on his way to the limo. 

Post script, 2013:
Over the years, I began to wonder if my memories of the recital were through rose tinted glasses. But then a friend sent me a pirate tape of the concert, and it was just as I remembered it, maybe even better.


John said...

I was fortunate enough to be there that day as well; as an 11-year old aspiring pianist, it was a life-changing day. I saw him arrive 15 minutes before the concert and thought that was the best that day could offer; then I found out my mother had scored tickets and we could go inside and hear him!
Your observations are spot-on. The Scriabin was thunderous, and the Chopin Scherzo was fantastic. I remember seeing the lucky people who could share a stage with him that afternoon, and the little boy who's hair he tousled on his way out after the encores.
Unforgettable day.

Karoline Gierymski said...

Any idea if this was the last time he performed at Symphony Hall?

Hank Drake said...

Yes, this is the last time he played in Boston. There was some talk of him returning there in 1987, but he stopped playing in public in June of that year.