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CD Review

Leon Fleisher

Sony 45997

Complete Album Collection

  • Ludwig van Beethoven: 1
  • Concerto for Piano #1 in C Major, Op. 15
  • Concerto for Piano #2 in B Flat Major, Op. 19
  • Concerto for Piano #3 in C minor, Op. 37
  • Concerto for Piano #4 in G Major, Op. 58
  • Concerto for Piano #5 in E Flat Major, Op. 73 "Emperor"
  • Johannes Brahms:
  • Concerto for Piano #1 in D minor, Op. 15 1
  • Concerto for Piano #2 in B Flat Major, Op. 83 1
  • Liebeslieder Waltzes, Op. 52 a,j-m
  • Quintet for Piano & Strings in F minor, Op. 34 5
  • Studies for Piano, Anh. 1a/1 #5, Chaconne
  • Variations & Fugue for Piano in B Flat Major, Op. 24
  • Waltzes for Piano 4-Hands, Op. 39
  • Felix Blumenfeld: Etude for Piano Left Hand in A Flat Major, Op. 36
  • Benjamin Britten: Diversions for Piano Left Hand & Orchestra, Op. 21 2
  • Aaron Copland: Sonata for Piano
  • Claude Debussy: Suite bergamasque
  • Frederick Delius: Prelude "Irmelin" 1
  • César Franck: Symphonic Variations for Piano & Orchestra, M 46 1
  • Leopold Godowsky: Symphonic Metamorphoses of Themes from "Schatz-Walzer"
  • Edvard Grieg: Concerto for Piano in A minor, Op. 16 1
  • Paul Hindemith:
  • Stücke for String Orchestra "Schulwerk", Op. 44 #4 6
  • Theme & Variations for Piano & Strings "The Four Temperaments" 6
  • Trauermusik for Viola & Strings 3,h
  • Leon Kirchner: Sonata for Piano #1
  • Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Suite for Piano Left Hand & Strings, Op. 23 e,f,i
  • Wolfgang Mozart:
  • Concerto for 3 Pianos in F Major, K 242 3,b
  • Concerto for Piano #12 in A Major, K 414 (385p) 3
  • Concerto for Piano #23 in A Major, K 488 3
  • Concerto for Piano #25 in C Major, K 503 1
  • Rondo for Piano #1 in D Major, K 485
  • Sonata for Piano #4 in E Flat Major, K 282 (189g)
  • Sonata for Piano #10 in C Major, K 330 (300h)
  • Serge Prokofieff: Concerto for Piano Left Hand #4 in B Flat Major, Op. 53 2
  • Sergei Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 1
  • Maurice Ravel:
  • Concerto for Piano Left Hand in D Major 2
  • Miroirs: Alborada del gracioso
  • Sonatine for Piano
  • Valses nobles et sentimentales
  • Ned Rorem: Barcarolles for Piano
  • Camille Saint-Saëns: Etudes for Piano Left Hand, Op. 135
  • Robert Saxton: Chacony for Piano Left Hand
  • Franz Schmidt: Quintet for Piano Left Hand & Strings in G Major d,e,g,i
  • Franz Schubert:
  • Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D 965/Op. 129 j,c,a
  • Fantasy for Piano in C Major, D 760/Op. 15 "Wanderer"
  • German Dances for Piano, D 790/Op. 171
  • Sonata for Piano in A Major, D 664/Op. 120
  • Sonata for Piano in B Flat Major, D 960
  • Robert Schumann: Concerto for Piano in A minor, Op. 54 1
  • Alexander Scriabin:
  • Nocturne for Piano Left Hand in D Major, Op. 9 #2
  • Prélude for Piano Left Hand in C Sharp minor, Op. 9 #1
  • Roger Sessions: From My Diary
  • Jenöe Takács: Toccata & Fugue for Piano Left Hand, Op. 56
Leon Fleischer, piano
a Rudolf Serkin, piano
b Katherine Jacobson Fleisher, piano
c Harold Wright, clarinet
d Joel Smirnoff, violin
e Joseph Silverstein, violin
f Jaime Laredo, violin
g Michael Tree, viola
h Paul Godwin, viola
i Yo-Yo Ma, cello
j Benita Valente, soprano
k Marlena Kleinman, alto
l Wayne Conner, tenor
m Martial Singher, bass
1 Cleveland Orchestra/George Szell
2 Boston Symphony Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa
3 Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
4 Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
5 Juilliard String Quartet
6 Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra/Szymon Goldberg
Each disc is in its own cardboard sleeve, an exact replica of the original issue, with notes (when available) & recording number when first released
Included is a 59-page bound booklet with an essay by Jed Distler in English, French and German; photographs; also track names and timings not available on the originals
Sony 88725459972 23CDs
[ Original Issue Information ]
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Leon Fleisher is one of the finest pianists of the past century. His story is tragic. At age ten he was taught by Artur Schnabel, who did not usually teach children, and an international career was launched by his first prize in the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels. But then, like Robert Schumann, he lost the use of a hand and did not regain it for three decades. His good left hand, however, enabled him to play a number of works written for the left hand only, including some commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein, the brother of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who lost the use of his right hand in the First World War. Fortunately, Fleisher also had talents as a conductor, as administrator (Tanglewood and Aspen), and gave master classes, attracting students worldwide.

The present collection of Columbia/Epic/Sony recordings includes the many works listed above but not include his late album Two Hands (on another label) with one of Schubert's greatest sonatas, as well as pieces by Bach, Chopin, and Debussy.

My own acquaintance with Fleisher's playing goes back many years, most notably to his recordings of the Brahms concertos and Handel Variations, which I believe are unsurpassed. Eugene Istomen's performance of the Handel Variations would no doubt be competitive with Fleischman's but not the one by Emmanuel Ax. What is most impressive about Fleischman's playing generally is the clarity of his articulation of phrasing. For anyone by chance unfamiliar with his playing I would especially recommend those Handel Variations by Brahms.

The five Beethoven piano concertos as Fleischman has recorded them with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra leave nothing to be desired. This pianist and conductor worked particularly well together. Their tempos are very well chosen. And they make the slow movement of the second Beethoven concerto, always my least favorite, more beautiful than I ever realized.

One of the happiest groupings of works by other composers are the left-hand concertos by Ravel, Britten, and Prokofiev. His Ravel is surpassed by the superb performance by Robert Casadesus, but this is good. Early in his career Fleischman championed the works of other twentieth-century composers, such as Korngold, Copland and others. It is good to have these here. The disc with Copland also includes works by Sessions, Kirchner (who studied with Schonberg) and Rorem, who wrote all those memoirs.

Jed Distler's essay connects Fleisher's interpretations of Liszt and Mozart to Schnabel's influence. Clarity is their hallmark, I would say. The Rachmaninoff, a work I can hardly listen to owing to gross overindulgence in it in my youth, is not, perhaps happily, a full blown romantic interpretation. I was also carried away by the Grieg in those days, following a high school production of Song of Norway, but I can still find it beautiful as well as impassioned. I am glad that after years of palate-cleansing from hyper-romanticism through leaner and more pungent works of the twentieth century, I can listen to most of the music here with pleasure again.

All in all, this is a collection to be treasured.

Copyright © 2014, R. James Tobin

Trumpet