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Vladimir Horowitz Returns to Perform in Paris After a 34-Year Absence

October 31, 1985

PARIS (AP) _ It’s been 34 years since Vladimir Horowitz set foot on a Paris stage. Miffed by the sarcasm of a leading French music critic, the celebrated pianist announced, ″If I don’t play well enough for Paris, you won’t see me here again.″

But the wound has closed, the affair is all but forgotten.

The 81-year-old Russian-born pianist is now back. He gave the first of two recitals on Oct. 26 and received the Legion of Honor award from President Francois Mitterrand three days later.

″I’m playing well again, and I want the world to know it,″ said an ebullient Horowitz after the first recital, which had the audience of 2,000 at the Theatre des Champs Elysees on its feet throughout most of the 90-minute concert.

Horowitz had reason to be happy. The brilliant but erratic career that he began at age 17 has been punctuated by long periods during which he did not play in public: 1936-38, 1953-65 and 1967-74.

The Paris recitals, the second of which will take place Saturday, mark the end of two years away from the concert stage. Horowitz says he’s glad to be back in the French capital, this time regardless of what the critics say.

″I did quite a good job, as good as I can for my age. But if I’m satisfied with my own playing, then I don’t care what the other people say,″ Horowitz said in an interview at his Paris hotel. ″And vice versa, if I’m not at my best and everybody raves, then I’m not happy either.″

″Don’t say that for my age I play well,″ interrupts his wife Wanda, who is the daughter of the late Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini. ″For any age, you play well.″

Still, Horowitz has not completely come to terms with the French press. He was disappointed with a review by respected critic Jacques Longchampt which appeared in Le Monde after the Oct. 26 concert.

Longchampt, recalling the Horowitz of old, said ″only poetry″ remains, and his ″once-iron-like hands ... (are) now velvet and crystal.″

″Lots of words and beautiful phrases, but nothing about the music,″ remarked Horowitz.

As for the 1,100-franc (around $125) tickets, Horowitz said with a laugh: ″I don’t set the price, and I don’t make them come.

″But you know what, I had a daughter - she died young - and she used to say ‘Mama, when you pay something, it’s not more expensive after you pay.’ She was right. Before you pay, it’s expensive. After, it’s not.″

Horowitz says his style has changed with the years. Once he was a ″showman who liked to shock the audience.″

Today, he is more restrained: ″I want the audience to come to me.″

To play well, Horowitz says he needs a good piano (he ships his Steinway from New York), a concert hall with good acoustics, a good mood, good food and a good bed.

″It’s a combination of the brain, the heart and the meat,″ he said holding up his fingers, now spotted by age.

The Paris recitals have been scheduled for midafternoon. ″That’s the best time for me,″ Horowitz explained. ″If I play at night, then afterward I have dinner and I never get to sleep.″

As to his daily routine, Horowitz says, ″I have practiced enough in my life, and besides, it’s not good to practice. I don’t care if I play wrong notes or something, it’s not important. The most important thing is the spirit.

″When I play, I depict the lives of the composers, not mine. I’m Bach, I’m Schubert, I’m Chopin.″

Horowitz says nowadays there is too much emphasis on technique and not enough general knowledge of the symphony, opera and composition.

Horowitz unwinds from a grueling schedule of meetings, interviews and rehearsals away from the piano. Since tennis is bad for the hands, he says he reads, take walks and watches movies on the video-recorder he had installed in his hotel suite.

Asked what kind of movies he likes best, he mimes a machine-gun toting soldier, and answers, ″pam pam pam ... I just saw ‘Rambo’ last night.″

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