An old man sat down at a piano in Moscow and played yesterday. Everything on earth seemed to stop and listen -- even the usual voices of rage and rancor. The Vladimir Horowitz recital from Moscow's Bolshoi Zal, aired nearly live on CBS, was great music, thrilling history and splendid television.

Offered as part of a special two-hour edition of the always commendable CBS News "Sunday Morning" program, the recital proved to be the kind of social and cultural event that defies comparison -- a never-to-be-repeated occasion that, thanks to videotape, can and ought to be repeated.

Although there was a slight impairment of the audio, which suffered somewhat as the performance was bounced back by satellite to the United States, the pictures were captivating, whether of the artist in meditative close-up, or of the great hall in panorama, or of the faces in the audience, some clearly enraptured, at least one in tears.

Correspondent Charles Kuralt was an ideal and unobtrusive guide; his report on Horowitz's comings and goings in Moscow, seen on Friday's "CBS Evening News," was invaluable ambiance.

The camera work, through the facilities of the Swiss Polivideo organization, managed to convey both momentousness and warm intimacy. This was the kind of broadcast that did broadcasting proud.

The world, as anyone can see, is a mad place. It has seemed more so than usual in recent days and weeks.

The music of Horowitz surmounted and defied international cacophony. While Horowitz played, all else relented.

This was not only a moment of beauty; this was a moment of sanity.