"Played percussively, the piano is a bore. If I go to a concert and someone plays like that I have two choices: go home or go to sleep. The goal is to make the piano sing, sing, sing."

Vladimir Horowitz

The legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) won his first glowing comment on his interpretation of Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto from the composer himself. When Rachmaninoff heard the young Kiev-born pianist play his work shortly after Horowitz's arrival in New York in 1928, he exclaimed: "He swallowed it whole."


Fifty years later, on 24 September 1978, Horowitz electrified his audience once again with this monumental work. Accompanied by the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta – today one of the giants among international conductors – he gave a special performance of this work as part of the celebrations honoring his U.S. debut 50 years earlier. His unforgettable account was recorded live on video and broadcast simultaneously throughout the United States. It was the last time Horowitz played the Third in his lifetime.


This performance is considered by many to be the greatest interpretation of the work on video. The work itself, reverently called "Rach 3" by pianists brave enough to tackle its monstrous technical challenges, achieved international celebrity of a different kind in recent years. It was one of the key plot points of the 1996 feature film "Shine" about the pianist David Helfgott, starring Geoffrey Rush. The film became a hit around the world, and Helfgott's best-selling recording of the Third thrust the Rachmaninoff concerto into the spotlight once again.


In his review of Horowitz's performance of the concerto earlier in 1978, the critic Harold C. Schonberg of The New York Times wrote: "It did not take long, once he had launched into the Rachmaninoff, to realize what we all have been missing for the last quarter of a century. The Rachmaninoff Third is among the most popular of all concertos, and every virtuoso plays it: But nobody has this kind of pianistic brilliance or, above all, the tremendous sonority and bullet-like trajectories of Vladimir Horowitz." In his two 1978 performances of the Third, Horowitz restored the disfiguring cuts that Rachmaninoff, in an effort to boost the concerto's popularity, had made after first playing the piece in 1909.


The live performance of the concerto is preceded by a short montage giving an inside to Horowitz extraordinaire career.

Sergej Rachmaninoff
New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Zubin Mehta
Vladimir Horowitz
TV Director
Kirk Browning
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