Vladimir Horowitz – Stars and Stripes Forever

Today I am going to talk about a piece of music arranged by Russian pianist, Vladimir Horowitz. This is the Stars and Stripes Forever.

This piece was performed by Valery Kuleshov, a very respected Russian pianist.

Putting all music aside just for right now, there is a really staggering pattern between many pieces of American Music being arranged by their Russian counterparts. Many great American songs were all arranged by Russian pianists and composers at a time. Heck, Rachmaninoff even arranged the National Anthem of the United States, the Starred Spangled Banner for piano. Many Russian composers and musicians left their homeland in the early 1910’s to escape the grip of revolution and ultimately, Communism’s downplay and censorship of music. America allowed this music to flourish about, still keeping the same ideas and style of their homeland. In turn of giving that security of musical freedom, they wrote arrangements of their new homelands in the only way they did… The Russian Romantic Way.

Back to the music…

There are two interpretations of this piece that I enjoyed very much. The first piece that caught my attention was Kuleshov’s interpretation (the example on the top). The second was the interpretation of Arkady Volodos (another Russian Pianist) of this piece. I picked Kuleshov’s interpretation over the interpretation of Volodos simply for the fact of feeling. I dare not to compare because they are both virtuosos at their craft. Kuleshov plays the piece with feel and pomp that patriotism embodies. Volodos plays it more like a march who only focuses on the pure technique of the piece rather than the feel of patriotism. It may be somewhat hard to listen for but that’s what I got out of it.

What I really enjoyed about Kuleshov’s interpretation is his use of dynamic and overall sound that his unique pianist style embodies. It may be the piano or it may be Kuleshov, but I really enjoyed the accentuation of the bass notes which provides the listener with nice rich bass notes. That what I love about the piano.

The main strain of the piece, in three staves

Looks scary, huh?

What also grabbed my attention was the score. This piece is not an easy piece at all. By any means, it would take me years to play this piece. There are parts where the song sounds like two pianos are being played but really, only one piano with hands doing many amazing tasks. In the main strain, you have the piccolo part, the main melody, chordal accompaniment, PLUS the bass notes all going along at once by only two hands! It sounds like four hands are playing, but you have the right hand playing the piccolo, and the left playing the rest. This is expressed in the score as three staves (above). Looks scary to start off, huh? Sure I’ve seen the ending of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor, it’s in four staves and is relatively easy and only to show the extensive range of the piece, but this piece is only virtuosic ability only – something from which I lack completely.

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