WDAV recently had the distinct privilege of hosting the famous – and very well-traveled – Horowitz Piano. This special “guest” was made possible by the Steinway Piano Gallery-Charlotte and a heartfelt “many thanks” is due to Mark Love for this wonderful opportunity.
As a part of the unique instrument’s 3-day residency at WDAV, we had the honor to hear three wonderful musicians perform live on-air. Each of these artists brought an interesting approach to the playing of this piano. From Chad Lawson’s take on Chopin to Pam Howland’s Beatles interpretations to Cynthia Lawing’s Rachmaninoff – along with Tanja Bechtler on cello! – what a tremendous musical feast was enjoyed.
Of course, this instrument has its own endearing qualities because of the singular talent of its owner – the great Vladimir Horowitz. As his personal instrument, it was built to his exacting standards and lovingly maintained over the years. Since his death in 1989 and the gifting of this piano to Steinway by his widow, Wanda Toscanini, the piano has been a musical ambassador to the world.
To illustrate something of Horowitz’s attention to detail, I offer the following story related by Charles O’Connell in The Other Side of the Record (1947) concerning a recording of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 featuring Horowitz on piano and Arturo Toscanini conducting.
“The records were made, and after certain difficulties, approved; and then began a series of alarums and excursions that brought about another Toscanini crisis. In the first place, Horowitz was dissatisfied with one of the records because in a certain passage he had omitted one note. This omission could not be detected, without advance notice, by one person in a hundred, and indeed, was not observed at the time the record was made, by Horowitz, Toscanini or myself. For various reasons we had no opportunity to make the record again, so Horowitz persuaded me to combine two records, substituting a part of one to cover the defective passage in the other. This was a matter of very considerable difficulty, but it was accomplished to Horowitz’s satisfaction and the set of records put into production. Through a tragic error in our matrix manufacturing department a master record of this repaired disc – not the one approved by Horowitz – was used in production, and to pile Pelion on Ossa, this particular record was slightly out of tune with the rest of the concerto. More than forty thousand sets of the concerto reached the public, and apparently no one, not even the omniscient record reviewers, noticed the defect.” (The Other Side of the Record, page 24)
Several interesting things emerge from this story. First, it recalls the pre-CD days when recording something like Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto required more than one “disc;” and second, how difficult it was to adjust recordings given the technology of the day. Personally, I was also intrigued by the literary reference “to pile Pelion on Ossa” . . . had to look that one up!
If you missed hearing the Horowitz piano during its stay at WDAV, don’t be distressed. The Steinway Piano Gallery-Charlotte has several other opportunities to catch it while it’s in the area. Contact the gallery at 704.817.2877 or visit www.steinwaygch.com for more details. You will be glad you experienced this wonderful instrument!
And in case you missed any of the performance/chats from our Horowitz Piano Residency, you can listen to them all – again and again – at wdav.org.