Pianist Vladimir Horowitz returned to Carnegie Hall in triumph yesterday afternoon, to play with the same orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, with which he made his American debut in that same hall 50 years, and the orchestra in 25 years, and the orchestra then was also the Philharmonic.
A half-hour before the concert, people were offering $1,000 for a single extra ticket as they accosted concertgoers in the pouring rain. More than 9,000 requests for seats had to be returned and the Philharmonic Fund, for whose benefit Horowitz, conductor Eugene Ormandy, and the entire orchestra contributed their services, will profit from the affair by $168,000.
Horowitz's choiceof the Third Concerto by Rachmaninov brought up still more history, for it was in Carnegie Hall, again with the Philharmonic, that the composer himself played the concerto under the baton of Gustav Mahler.
There were many in the audience yesterday who had never heard Horowitz play with orchestra. His legendary powers were the single subject of conversation before the began, and the reason for thundering shouts of enthusiasm when he funished.
No one had ever doubted that the 73-year-old Horowitz, whose aolo recitals in the past dozen years have been hailed as momentous events, could return to the concerto field with all of his famed control. He himself had said he would have no problems in balancing an orchestra again, or, if the need arose, in overwhelming one.
Yesterday's account of the Rachmaninov D Minor, which for some years in this country was almost exclusive Horowitz territory, was one of the towering readins. The largest details of the work were magnified, it most minute nuances exquisitely set out.
At times the pianist's tone was the slenderest whisper, making you wonder how he kept it alive yet so remote. At other times, the entire hall seemed engulfed in the flood of sound he unleashed. Ormandy and the Philharmonic were in total harmony with Horowitz throughout the concerto. Often, when he was not playing, the soloist turned to the musicians around him and watched them with an appreciative smile.
He played the more dazzling of the two cadenzas composed by Rachmaninov, the one that is more fleet and less thunder-filled.
In it, as in myriad other passages, Horowitz brought out various other examples of finger dexterity that left some of the pianists in the hall gasping.When sheer speed was appropriate it was there in staggering array. But the greatest beauties of all came in the variety of singing tone and pedal effects that were never absent.
Horowitz played the entire concerto something the composer rarely did. When the work was new it was considered too long. In yesterday's performance, various rarely-heard sections gave the concerto not only a welcome feeling of unity, but singular touches which, if omitted, rob the work of special beauty.
When the playing was over, the musicians rose and applauded Horowitz and Ormandy with genuine warmth. It was the first time that Ormandy had conducted the Philharmonic in about 40 years.
With them, he had given the first half of the afternoon to solid, meticulous performces of the Egmont Overture and Seventh Symphony of Beethoven. The rapport between conductor and orchestra was as pronounced and appreciated as it was at every moment of the concert.
Horowitz returned often to the stage during the prolonged ovation at the end. When it became obvious that the audience wanted an encore, he turned toward the big Steinway and shook his fingers in a way that made it quite clear that he had done all the playing he intended to for one day. Finally, with Ormandy, he signaled the orchestra players to follow him off the stage, marking the end of an century by many and tumultuously celebrated by those lucky enough to get into the hall.
Just before Horowitz played; an appreciative letter was read from President Carter. While Horowitz was at the center of the stage, his wife, Wanda, and here sister, the Countess Wally Castelbarco, were watching from a box, as they had often watched their famous father, conductor Arturo Toscanini, lead the same orchestra in the same hall.
The audience was dotted with famous composers including Kryzsztof Penderecki and William Schuman and musicians and conductors from Rostropovich and Isaac Stern through such great pianists as Istomin, Firkusny, Browning, and Martha Argerich - all Horowitz lovers.