Tonight I fired up the turntable and put on Vladimir Horowitz's performance of the Rachmaninoff 3rd piano concerto - a piece of music I have obsessed over since buying the recording at the age of 12. The piece has it all: Russian melodies that seem to contain all the sadness of the world, sweeping orchestration, bravura pianism of the highest level, and a stirring conclusion that even after hundreds of hearings makes my heart leap to my throat and covers me with goosebumps. It is a perfect pairing of composition and player. Many others have played the Rach 3 brilliantly, but to me, it will always be owned by Mr. Horowitz. On this recording - made in 1978 at Carnegie Hall on the 50th anniversary of his American debut - he is an old man, and misses some notes here and there - but the passion in the playing is as if he's playing it not only for himself and the audience, but also for his old friend Sergei Rachmaninoff, for mother Russia, and for the ages. And most importantly: as if he may never play again. Which is how everything should be played.
Yesterday we put our beloved 15-year-old cat Bacchus to sleep. He had lung cancer and for the last 2 weeks I have been helplessly watching him die. There were times, it seems, that the only thing getting me through it was this piece of music, which I have been listening to repeatedly. Bacchus always sat with me in the office when I listened to music...I wish he were here tonight. I think he liked this one.