HOROWITZ PLAYS MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488. Piano Sonata in B-flat major, K. 333 (315c). Vladimir Horowitz, piano. Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor. (Deustche Grammophon, digital CD, 423 287-2, 50:26 minutes.) - Horowitz's first studio concerto recording in over three decades is surprisingly fascinating, because one does not expect the animation, nuance, warmth, and humanity he brings out of this popular concerto. One can argue about the approach being more Horowitzean than Mozartean, yet there is no question that this is a keyboard master making a very personal statement about a unique giant among composers. Giulini is an interesting foil here, allowing just so much leeway before he reminds soloist and listener where the boundaries of interpretation lie. The Scala Opera orchestra plays enthusiastically, and the piano sound is particularly well caught. The sonata is no less distinctive, and it is a pleasure to hear Horowitz playing with such mellowness. SHOSTAKOVICH AND TCHAIKOVSKY Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47 (EMI/Angel digital CD, CDC 7 49181 2, 40:58 minutes) and Tchaikovsky's ``Francesca da Rimini,'' ``Romeo and Juliet,'' and ``Festive Overture: 1812'' (EMI/Angel digital CD, CDC 7 49141 2, 55:50 minutes), Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Mariss Jansons, conductor. - Jansons brought his Oslo Philharmonic to New York's Carnegie Hall last fall in a spectacular if unorthodox performance of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony; so I had high expectations for both of these EMI/Angel debut recordings. They are, frankly, disappointing, because Jansons takes no chances. The ensuing lack of electric vitality in the Shostakovich makes the orchestra's lack of polish apparent; the engineering is only good, and 41 minutes of music is too little for a medium that can hold nearly 75. The Tchaikovsky release at least offers more music, but no piece is so grippingly performed as to make this release irresistible, and the ``1812 Overture'' is not the sonic dazzler it has to be if it is going to compete in the knockout digital era.
PROKOFIEV Alexander Nevsky Cantata; Lieutenant Kije Suite. Christine Cairnes, mezzo-soprano. Los Angeles Master Chorale; Los Angeles Philharmonic, Andr'e Previn conductor. (Telarc, digital CD, CD-80143, 61:14 minutes) - Previn has been known as a remarkable Prokofiev conductor; so it was logical that he be given the honor of conducting his orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in the United States premi`ere of the complete ``Alexander Nevsky'' film score, while a newly restored print of the Sergei Eisenstein film unspooled at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles, last fall. Alas, Previn's recorded performance of the ``Nevsky'' Cantata - all passion, violence, and barbaric fervor - is entirely too genteel and refined. The ``Kije'' music fares little better. At least the works are adequately recorded, and the programming provides more than an hour of music, but it is not the standout release expectable from this label and this conductor.