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TV REVIEWS : Winning Portrait of 'Vladimir Horowitz'

March 12, 1994|HERBERT GLASS

The words of Wanda Toscanini Horowitz, "His philosophy was to transmit the music to the public and not to bore the public," launch "Vladimir Horowitz: A Reminiscence" and invite us to share with her an easygoing hour with the pianist, who died in 1989. He would have been 90 this year.

Mrs. Horowitz offers no startling revelations regarding her 56 years as the lionized pianist's wife. She does, however, offer a winningly unpuffy portrait of the man--with whom she is concerned more than she is with Horowitz the musician, despite her mild protestations to the contrary.

We know Vladimir Horowitz well from previous filmed "celebrations," and here, as in the past, even some who decried his often hyper-flashy pianism may succumb to his puckish personality and refusal to take himself too seriously, qualities that emerge in his words and in the witty bravado with which he dispatches such frou-frou as Moszkowski's "Etincelles."

The most moving footage here--old hat, possibly, for dedicated Horowitz watchers--was taken at a recital in Moscow marking the pianist's return to Russia (he was born in Kiev, in Ukraine) in 1986 after an absence of 61 years.

The intense pleasure the pianist takes in his playing, and the rapt attention of an audience ranging in age from pre-teens to graybeards, speak with uncommon persuasiveness for the power of his art and personality.

For the rest, there are the usual irritatingly inconclusive musical snippets--by Clementi, to whose music Wanda introduced him, his idol, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Haydn, Scarlatti--as well as a stunningly controlled and passionate performance of Scriabin's finger-busting (for other pianists) "Vers la flamme." All six deliriously spooky minutes of it, by golly.

* "Vladimir Horowitz: A Reminiscence" airs at 6:30 tonight on KCET-TV Channel 28.

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