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Leon Fleisher Plays Beethoven & Brahms

Beethoven / Brahms / Fleisher
Release Date: 08/07/2012 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 1918052   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johannes BrahmsLudwig van BeethovenWolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Leon FleisherJules Eskin
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Number of Discs: 5 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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CD:  $21.49
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Although the 1959-61 Leon Fleisher/George Szell Beethoven concerto cycle has seen numerous CD releases since 1987, those who’ve missed this set should consider its present budget-priced incarnation, along with these artists’ equally magnificent Brahms concertos and Mozart C major K. 503, plus Fleisher’s 1956 solo mono Brahms release featuring the Handel Variations and Waltzes. More than half a century of sonic evolution and artistic competition cannot dim the young Fleisher’s enlivening inflections of phrase, characterful energy, harmonic tension, and lyrical strength, not to mention Szell’s bracing, taut, and frighteningly well balanced orchestral frameworks. Listen to, for example, the joyous and intense motivic volleying between soloist Read more and orchestra in the Beethoven G major finale and “Emperor” Concerto first-movement development, and notice Fleisher’s zesty accents in the Beethoven B-flat Rondo’s main theme and second subject.

The slow movements of the Brahms concertos convey spaciousness and repose without losing an inch of spine. In the Handel Variations Fleisher’s tempo relationships from one variation to the next are tightly integrated and cumulatively fulfilling. For collectors who like to split hairs, Szell’s legendary control emerges in slightly less ascetic, more passionate fettle in comparison to his later Cleveland versions of the Beethoven works with Gilels and the Brahms pieces with Serkin. In short, the Fleisher/Szell synergy still lives up to its legend and retains its reference status.

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano no 1 in D minor, Op. 15 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854-1858; Germany 
Date of Recording: 02/1958 
Venue:  Cleveland, Ohio 
Length: 46 Minutes 48 Secs. 
2.
Variations and Fugue for Piano in B flat major on a theme by Handel, Op. 24 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1861; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1956 
Venue:  Columbia 30th Street Studios, NYC 
Length: 25 Minutes 10 Secs. 
3.
Concerto for Piano no 2 in B flat major, Op. 83 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Jules Eskin (Cello), Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878-1881; Austria 
Date of Recording: 10/1962 
Venue:  Cleveland, Ohio 
Length: 47 Minutes 26 Secs. 
4.
Waltzes (16) for Piano 4 hands, Op. 39 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1865; Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1956 
Venue:  Columbia 30th Street Studios, NYC 
Length: 18 Minutes 12 Secs. 
5.
Concerto for Piano no 1 in C major, Op. 15 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795; Vienna, Austria 
6.
Concerto for Piano no 2 in B flat major, Op. 19 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1793/1798; Vienna, Austria 
7.
Concerto for Piano no 3 in C minor, Op. 37 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria 
8.
Concerto for Piano no 4 in G major, Op. 58 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
9.
Concerto for Piano no 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 "Emperor" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809; Vienna, Austria 
10.
Concerto for Piano no 25 in C major, K 503 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  5 Customer Reviews )
 Alway s a welcome visitor to one's library, this  October 10, 2014 By Tony Engleton See All My Reviews "10-10-2014 The American pianist Leon Fleisher made his way through several of the great works of the standard repertoire and these 5 PF Concerti are a perfect example of his great, wide-ranging skill and artistry. Basic repertoire pieces, each is a unique stepping stone for the admirer, or that seasoned professional, providing hours, months and years of consistency and quality in their steady musicianship and never drooping moments of tedium, not with the Great George steering the sublime Cleveland Orchestra. George led the Great lakes virtuosi from 1947 till his death in 1970. As a trainer of orchestras and a preeminent teacher, this scholar, actually Dr. Szell, commanded respect and admiration wherever he roamed but he simply loved the city on the Erie, and felt honored to have tackled the objective of building from a sensational orchestra up to a world elite level. My lone music teacher, my Uncle Tom, a retired Notre Dame History professor, and to the end Catholic Priest, admired this man greatly, and placed, especially his Beethoven and his Haydn at or near the top of the pile all his life, although he loved the thunder and "noise" of a Mahler or Bruckner Symphony with the best of them. "Sometimes, "one needs a good stretch," he often commented. thou shalt not remain tedious and precise 24 hours a day, and stretch, he did!! I will sample the concerti #1, #3 and #5, and remark briefly on the Brahms 31 and #2, included oddly in this 4 disc set, from Sony in this surprisingly good 1957 to 1962 Columbia Records sound. For some reason, the Columbia engineers were able to give Szell better than average acoustics, which even R. Serkin didn't always receive. Perhaps, the legendary, but not necessarily truthful wrath of the man, was, by itself, enough to scare the technical boys into doing better than their best, and we are the winners for it!! The maestro once said that his dentist's background music hurt worse than his drill!! Ah, spoken like a true music lover, and with such humor. His wit was famous. Once when challenged regarding, I think it was Nielsen and his starkness of melody, he replied that it was fruitless to pour chocolate sauce over Asparagus, no matter who interesting the idea. So. He was a realist, a truism and a candid genius on the podium. If you are a young beginner amassing a library of the basics, this 4 CD set from the no frills folks at Sony, serves quite well, even if you also want , say, Brendel, Pehria, Ashkenazy or, say Ax, it will co-exist nicely like it was meant to be. Perhaps it was. If you're an old coot like me, looking to inflame his already sizable collection, it is just as well, to hear these nearly definitive readings, though I will say, the Brendel/Levine "live" CSO performances on Philips is irresistible, and all done with exciting real Windy City freshness and swagger. They have also been offered on London Records, shy? I do not know, but thank you gentlemen!! We generally consider Szell's Beethoven to be his hallmark Symphonies with Cleveland and as a gutsy classical rhetoric, with just enough "Strum und Drang," to redden the skin, and tense the grip of the facial muscles, yet lacking not one jot in the precision department. But, these concerti offer that romantic bridge for the keyboardist to scamper over and stamp out his own message, as well. Fleisher was a superb pianist, but no R. Serkin. Probably more like a Peter Serkin, he is a tad less fiery, and is more suited, I think, to lighter fare, thus his 1st and 2nd Concerti seem nearly perfect and expertly weighted and balanced, with Dr. Szell clearly in the lead role, towing the young American along "for ballast." Written in the span of 1799 thru 1801, the initial pair of concerti are, as we all know, reversed in their compositional order. #1 is actually #2 and the Second is really the First, but that does, after much examination, and repeated listening become apparent. it also serves to acquaint us with the composer's laborious, often drudgery-wracked gestational period, leaving us in awe of this man, who lived the overwhelming percentage of his days in growing, or total silence, due to his long hearing loss. How he even composed one or two masterpieces is beyond my puny mind to get, and I have to chalk it up to the grace of a loving,, just and "father knows best" God in His Heavenly abode. What else can one say?? After supper, I'll review either the 3rd or the 5th. Ah, supper was good and watched some of the playoff action in MLB, for a break. S0, here is the 5th, the E Flat Major , "Emperor," as the final of the Beethoven samplings. Fleisher's account spans a wholesome 37:24, or about slightly a tad beyond the "average," timing, allowing the full eloquence if the particularly lovely Adagio con moto to gently emerge. I hadn't appreciated how beautiful this middle movement was until I saw it years ago, The Gary Oldman film, "Immortal Beloved," and, after having the beautiful Isabella Rossellini apply her face to one of the prime candidates and this forensique investigation driven by his final Secretary, Schindler, began to bring out this somewhat dubious story, but this modern world often can't get enough of LvB, either his music, or his personal life, regardless of any falsehoods, whether intentioned or accidental. Szell's big, theatrical opening to this #5 is almost like a film score, for some epic Hollywood grand historical stunner, like "El Cid," or "Lawrence of Arabia," or even a "Gone with the Wind," it's in that caliber. This lays to rest this notion that Szell was a mere tactician, interested only in the inner workings of the musical watches he conducted, instead of admiring them from a relaxed distance. How so, not true. He WAS a fire breather, with a passionate heart that beat with the best of them and his ethnic heritage was one of the finest, Hungarian/Jewish, filled with feeling, sweetness, romance and anything else that makes music heart-felt and palpable to the listeners. His "angst" trails Solti's, but he trumps him with that incomparable demand for, and resulting exact precision, well out pacing even Reiner, yet another H/J along side Solti and Dr.Szell These characteristics of most H/J's I've heard is truly remarkable and there IS something in their DNA that makes them special. If it could be packaged, what a serum to give a gifted young artist as he/she develops in their youth. We could breed a n entire race of Szells, or Reiners. WOW!! Just imagine!!! Sounds like the makings of a terrific mystery thriller, "The Polish/Jewish scientist who stumbles upon this magic serum, presents it to the Polish/East European Cultural Center with plans to dose dozens of progidies, and begin breeding a core of great Classical artists, AND, the evil, sinister small cell, intent on turning the dose into a somewhat devious fluid, making robotic, super-men, relentlessly obeying their world domination "bosses." Sort of like a "Frankenstein," with an Allegro tempo, and, naturally, the intrepid, lonely agent , with a hidden agenda, secretly and covertly trying to keep all this from happening. OH, well, back to the music. The 5th runs a lengthy 37:24, as I said earlier, and brings the grand total of this 5 CD box Set to a stunning 6 hours, 5 minutes and about 58 seconds providing days, weeks and years of wholesome, wonderful classical repertoire, in the great Germanic Romantic/Classical Period, as it also contains the Concerto #25 by Mozart, as well as the pair of Brahms Concerti, and his Handel Variations, for solo piano. What a deal!! I'll try to recall what I paid, but since I have the reputation for being the biggest "cheap-skate," West of the Mississippi, it was likely somewhere around 10-18 Dollars, US. A formidable sum, to this retiree, but, of course, a treasure to now own and enjoy till the angels come for me. The first movement on this reading is more interesting to me now, with Szell steering this great orchestra, in a sort of parade like journey, stately, dignified, epic, full-throated and riveting at every turn. BUT, for me, STILL, the heart of this work is that gorgeous, tender, highly romantic and totally sincere Adagio un poco moto," of only 8:25, and to hear what he coaxes out of both his pianist AND his Orchestra, is really wonderful and worth a repeat hearing. Encore! Encore!! Couldn't get enough of it. Neither will you, I predict, so take my word for it and get these discs TODAY, don't wait another moment. Yes, the "Emperor," is a true masterpiece, but the adagio is especially lovely and shows us a side of the Maestro we hadn't heard from for a while. Whom ever his lover was, it's immaterial now, nearly 200 years post mortem, but, for understanding the man, it IS important, so I cast my vote for the IR character of the Hungarian Countess, exhibiting a vain attempt to deny her emotions as she listens to a performance with the composer as soloist in the film "Immortal Beloved," which refired my latent interest in this work and I don't regret using the movies as a tool, just don't take them too seriously, as they do that PLENTY. Sir George Solti leads Murray Perahia and the LSO in the soundtrack, and does it quite well. The Adagio, in this Szell box, just seems to zip past too fast, though it actually feels like the right pacing. The finale Rondo:Allegro, flows without pause and is a controlled release of energy, emotion, light, and warm sunshine, held in check since the first movement, and now released every so judiciaously by the Master Szell ****************************FINISH REVIEW*****************************" Report Abuse
 great music March 22, 2014 By marie h. (highland hts., OH) See All My Reviews "Leon Fleisher and TCO play as one interpreting the Beethoven concertos often with great emotion. They probably would sound better if they could have the sound upgraded; possibly digitalized but maybe not possible since they were live recorded." Report Abuse
 Controversial but Beautiful April 8, 2013 By C. Liu (Mississauga, ON) See All My Reviews "Highly Recommend George Szell's "Emperor" and Brahms's No.2!" Report Abuse
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