While Mieczysław Horszowski was physically of short stature and a modest person, he was a musical giant for generations of admiring musicians and audiences around the world. A child prodigy who debuted at age ten, he lived for over a century and continued to perform into his late nineties, becoming one of the longest-performing artists in the world. Having developed a close relationship, as a teenager, with legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini, Horszowski appeared as a soloist with him for close to five decades. He played frequently with Pablo Casals at the Prades Festival and also with him and Alexander Schneider at the Kennedy White House, where he also gave a recital for Jimmy Carter.
He came to Marlboro for the first of 18 summers in 1963 when he was 70 and married for the first time in 1981 when he was 89. His wife, Italian pianist Bice Costa, remains a valued member of the Marlboro family. While he played many traditional chamber music works, he also introduced the Marlboro community to pieces by such composers as Tovey, Martinů, Pizzetti, D’Indy, and Dallapiccola, many of whom he knew personally. Some of us fondly remember his performances of four-hand works with Rudolf Serkin and the Bach ‘Triple’ concertos in C Major and D Minor with Mr. Serkin, Peter Serkin, and Ruth Laredo, which were recorded by Columbia (SONY).
With failing eyesight in the 1980s, Horszowski was no longer able to play chamber music and concentrated on recitals and concerto appearances. His last performance at Marlboro was in 1982 with the Bach G Minor Concerto led by Felix Galimir. His influence on generations of pianists was evident when, in his 90s, he gave memorable recitals in the Peoples’ Symphony Concerts series at New York’s Town Hall, and for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, where one could find the likes of Claude Frank, Richard Goode, Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia, Peter Serkin and Cynthia Raim in the audience.
András Schiff was initially attracted to Marlboro by Horszowski’s presence there, and working with him proved to be the highlight of his summer. “I could always go to him and sit on the grass together or accompany him on his walks. We would go through the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier and he would sing me the themes of the preludes and fugues, explaining their character. Once I asked him: “Mr. Horszowski, why is it that in Marlboro they always complain about my treatment of rubato?” He answered with an angelic voice: ‘You know, we all love our own rubato, but we don’t like the neighbors’ rubato.’ Thank you, Mr. Horszowski.”
We also thank Mr. Horszowski, for his many years of inspiring audiences, younger generations of musicians, and the entire Marlboro Music community.
Watch Mieczysław Horszowski play Mozart’s Sonata No. 12 in F Major, K. 332 in this 1991 recital.
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