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Miecio. Letters and postcards of Janina Roza Horszowska 1900-1904
Edited by Bice Horszowski Costa; preface by Elisabetta Fava
Erga edizioni 2008
147 pp with numerous colour reproductions and CD containing;
Beethoven - Piano Concerto No.1 in C major Op.15 with Omroep Kamerorkest/Mauritz van den Berg, 19 January 1958
Mozart – piano Concerto No.26 in D major K537 Musica Aeterna/Frederic Waldman, 15 April 1966
Chopin – Bolero Op.19, 22 May 1973
ISBN 978 888163550 4 $30
Experience Classicsonline


This beautifully produced soft-back book follows Micieo; Rememberances of Mieczslaw Horszowski, which was published almost a decade ago. It’s in landscape format about eight inches high and eleven and a half across, the better to fit the two columns of text and to display the full colour postcard reproductions that form the kernel of the story. It makes for glorious aesthetic pleasure simply flipping through the evocative cards – of which more in a moment.

The book consists of the postcards and (transcribed and translated) letters of Janina Roza Horszowska, Horszowski’s own piano playing and very acutely musical and practical mother. They were written between 1900 and 1904 and somehow ended up in, of all places, a garage in Nice. Miecio, or Mieczslaw Horszowski was eight at the start of the epistolary correspondence between his parents (his father was called Stanislaw). Roza stayed with the prodigy in Vienna whilst Stanislaw remained in Lwów.

What is so fascinating, beyond all the complexities of long distance domestic arrangements, food requests, money and transport – and the like – is the close attention we can pay to Horszowski’s musical development. The book offers an intense scrutiny, on repertoire, teachers, fees, rivals, the psychology of concert giving – the whole impedimenta of a young, brilliant musician’s thorough training under a great teacher. That teacher of course was Leschetizky and his reported aperçus are as delicious as ever – try the one that Roza says was a habitual comment of his; ‘Poles have absolutely no sense of rhythm, Paderewski leading them all.’ Henryk Melcer makes some important appearances; in one of them claiming that Leschetizky destroys a pupil’s individuality even whilst he contributes materially to forming his sound. Roza interpreted this as Melcer wanting to poach her son from Leschetizky.

What emerges, as well, is the extent to which the young Horszowski played the violin. For some time these studies operated in tandem, occupying almost equal amounts of time – his teachers included Stock and Grün. It was only by May 1901 that it became clear that Grün had lost confidence in his pupil’s violinistic abilities and offered pragmatic, definitive advice. As well as this by eight he was learning four languages. From time to time frustrations emerge; in March 1900 she writes that she is ‘fed up with Vienna and all this music! If I had not encouraged him, it would never have occurred to Miecio to play music.’

Names now forgotten appear frequently; Frank Merrick and Berta Jahn prominently as well as names that have resounded down the years – Sarasate, Flesch, Schnabel, Huberman, Vecsey, Mark Hambourg, Stefi Geyer, Siloti, Safonov, Mahler – the list is almost endless. So too questions of prestige, patronage, the etiquette of concert giving, the maelstrom of Viennese musical politics, the financial losses suffered by recital and tour giving (or indeed the occasional astronomical fees).

There is a bonus CD with the book. The first twelve bars of the Mozart are missing but it’s a work referred to in the letters and postcards as one he studied with Leschetitzky and performed in 1904. So too the Bolero which he played in class on 1 May 1904. I’ve reviewed the Beethoven in its guise on Arbiter.

I must return to the superbly produced book and reinforce just how opulently the postcards have been reproduced and how evocatively they reflect their time and place, the last fluttering years of the Double Eagle.

Jonathan Woolf   


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