VLADIMIR HOROWITZ - The Complete Original Jacket Collection
Sony 88697575007 (70 disks)

WILD: Variations on a Theme by Stephen Foster (Doo-Dah). Piano Sonata 2000. Improvisation on Someone to Watch Over Me. Adventure for Piano and Orchestra. BERLIOZ-WILD: Rákóczy March
Earl Wild, piano
IVORY CLASSICS 79003 TT: 73:35

CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11. Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21.
Rafal Blechacz, piano; Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Jerzy Semkow, cond.

Sony's huge Vladimir Horowitz set is a welcome compilation of most of the famous pianist's recordings—all he made for RCA, Columbia and Sony (Sony's latest Horowitz "Private Issue" recordings are not included). Each disk contains what was on the original LP or CD issue, which means that most of the CDs have quite limited playing time, many less than a half-hour. Some collectors might have preferred to have each CD filled to capacity eliminating reproductions of the original covers . This set weighs over 5 pounds and takes up ten inches of shelf space. The 200-page booklet includes covers of all initial releases, and a brief biography. Many of the performances were issued several times, all issues are heard in this collection. The famous May 9, 1965 Carnegie Hall recital, Horowitz's return to the concert stage after a 12 year hiatus, is heard twice—the original in which is heard an obvious clinker in the opening bar of Bach's Toccata in C, as well as the note-perfect edited version of the entire concert. This massive collection does not include Horowitz recordings on DGG or EMI, or any of his piano roll recordings—and collectors surely should investigate some of the pianist's other remarkable live recordings. Check ArkivMusik's listings for all of these. There are some minor text editing errors in Sony's new set, but this is a super-budget issue (slightly over $3 per disk at list price), a convenient way to acquire most recordings made by one of the great pianists of the century.

Earl Wild's new disk offers fascinating treasures from the past as well as more recent performances. Earliest is Adventure, a brief (10:34) "concerto" written in 1939 premiered live on NBC radio. The score has been lost, but an aircheck of the broadcast was found in the Library of Congress, and that is what is heard on this CD. Wild's Berlioz transcription also has been lost; we hear a performance from a Carnegie Hall concert in 1951, from a Voice of America disk thanks again to the Library of Congress. Although liner notes state this is a live performance, it is difficult to understand why there is no applause after this stupendous performance. Gershwin's improvisation dates from 1990 when it was recorded. The clever, imaginative "Doo-Dah" variations was composed in 1991-1992,and premiered in Des Moines where this recording was made. Originally issued on Chesky coupled with Wild's arrangement of the Gershwin concerto (CD 98), it is still available on that label. The most recent work is the large-scale Sonata written in 2000, three movements with touches of blues, jazz, Latin American rhythms, and a bit of Prokofiev here and there. This is a fascinating recording showing the manifold talents of a major pianist of the century, who died this month at the age of 94. He will be missed.

Polish pianist Rafal Belchacz was only 20 when he won the 2005 International Piano Competition in a big way: not only the first prize, but special prizes for his performances of a sonata, mazurka, concerto and polonaise. Since then his career has zoomed, and his first DGG recording, Chopin's Preludes, has been highly praised. Now we have this superlative performances of the composer's two piano concertos in which we have the luxury of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under the direction of lively octogenarian Jerzy Semkow. Excellent sound.

R.E.B. (January 2010)