These are indeed legendary recordings. Vladimir Horowitz
's 1941 Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto, bristling with energy and virtuosity, has long been the benchmark version of this well-known work, despite the antiquated and constricted sound quality. This shortcoming is quickly forgiven, however, as Horowitz and conductor Arturo Toscanini
(the pianist's father-in-law, as it happens) match each other for high-octane thrills in an unforgettably vivid performance. Likewise, Horowitz's 1951 Rachmaninoff Third with Fritz Reiner
, in somewhat better sound and with just as much blistering energy, won't soon be forgotten, another yardstick interpretation by which all others are measured. Horowitz owned this concerto -- no other pianist has yet posed a serious challenge -- and this is the finest of his three recorded versions. The second disc offers a generous collection of showpieces for solo piano that were favorite encores on Horowitz's recitals -- brief works by Chopin, Schumann, Scriabin, and others, recorded between the late '40s and early '80s. The Horowitz centenary has brought a trove of commemorative releases (2003 saw the 100th anniversary of his birth), including Sony's reissue of the famous 1965 Carnegie Hall recital, presented for the first time unedited; Deutsche Grammophon's compendium of late-life recordings, The Magic of Horowitz
; and RCA's Horowitz Rediscovered,
the premiere release of a 1975 recital. This set, offered at a two-for-one price, presents more treats from RCA's vaults, and with truly the cream of the crop of Horowitz's concerto recordings, makes a fine addition to any collection.