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Leon Fleisher - The Complete Album Collection

Fleisher,Leon
Release Date: 07/16/2013 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 545997   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz SchubertSergei RachmaninovCésar FranckFrederick Delius,   ... 
Performer:  Leon FleisherJules EskinBenita ValenteHarold Wright,   ... 
Conductor:  George SzellSeiji OzawaLeon FleisherSzymon Goldberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland OrchestraJuilliard String QuartetBoston Symphony Orchestra,   ... 
Number of Discs: 23 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Leon Fleisher is considered a living legend among the distinguished American pianists who emerged in the late forties and early fifties. Students travel from all over the globe to work with him or even just sit in on his master classes. The new 23-CD box set, Leon Fleisher: The Complete Album Collection, defines the personal and musical twists of his career. Beginning with his win at the 1952 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, the repertoire in this set includes Fleisher’s iconic Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Schumann and Grieg concerto collaborations with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, along with his highly acclaimed solo recordings. Also represented is Fleisher at the peak of his later career when he had been diagnosed with Read more focal dystonia in his right hand and was able to play concertos and recitals with only his left hand. Leon Fleisher’s musical legacy will stand the test of time and The Complete Album Collection will enliven and stimulate music lovers and budding pianists alike.

Reviews of some of the original recordings that make up this set:

Mozart: Piano Concertos No 12, 7 & 23
"It’s something of a sobering thought to realize that a half century has passed since Leon Fleisher made his splendid recording with George Szell of Mozart’s towering C-Major Concerto, K 503. It augured for his becoming a major Mozartian, but, with the physical problems that ensued, it seemed it would never come to pass. Yet it has, slowly but surely, and if my own experience is any indication, with increasing control. That experience involves having heard Fleisher at Tanglewood in the early stages of his return to concertizing in a performance of the K 414 Concerto No. 12 featured here, a reading that was certainly musical and pleasing but without the subtlety and freedom of this performance, traits that are surely linked to his having regained greater technical control. In all three concertos (No. 7 heard here in an arrangement made by Mozart for two pianos), Fleisher is a refreshingly subtle pianist, rhythmically free without sounding mannered, never pushing a tempo too hard, particularly in outer movements, and refining his tone so that keyboard textures are always well defined. Most significantly, his approach underscores the inherent drama of this music, particularly in the two concertos where he is the sole soloist. As heard here, these are not works for an 18th-century drawing room. Vital, intense, and daring, they make clear why Mozart was the consummate master of the Classical concerto. If No. 7 is not quite up to the quality of Mozart’s later efforts, it is nonetheless worth hearing, especially in this fine performance where Fleisher joins his wife, who is on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory. Only in its finale (admittedly the work’s weakest movement) do things seem a bit dull. The orchestra is chamber sized in every sense of the word, two double basses supporting a total of 17 strings. Certainly, these performances can hold their own against some of the distinguished efforts of Brendel, Schiff, Uchida, and Rudolf Serkin (his Sony recordings.)"

FANFARE: Mortimer H. Frank

Ravel, Prokofiev: Piano Concertos; Britten: Diversions
This is a distinguished issue and a welcome reminder of an artist of whom we have heard far too little in recent years. Fleisher's Ravel is beautifully moulded, with a fine rhythmic snap when needed, and his Prokofiev and Britten are comparably sensitive and finished. Combine that with high-class orchestral support and splendid recorded sound and you have what has to be a highly recommendable disc.

-- Gramophone [4/1993]

Beethoven Concertos
"Leon Fleischer's Beethoven concerto cycle first appeared on the mid-price Columbia label nine or ten years ago and very competitive it was. Now that CBS have repackaged the set at L4-99 its attractions make it a formidable offer. I have always admired Fleischer's playing and renewing my acquaintance with these readings have found little reason to modify my enthusiasm for what seems to me eminently intelligent and clean playing from him and no less thoughtful a response from Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra. Turning back to the original reviews I see that EG as long ago as 1965 found No. I "among the most attractive and enjoyable versions available" and in reviewing No. 4 spoke in similar terms, adding, "Could I give higher praise than to say that in places, Fleischer is even more magical than Kempff, giving the genuine frisson, and at the same time keeping on the whole a straighter, less romantic approach to the question of tempo?" TH spoke no less highly of the Emperor ("a most impressive and exciting account"), and only in the case of Nos. 2 and 3 has praise been in any way qualified. I must say that in listening again to No. 2, it was still the liveliness and the intelligence of the playing that struck me. True, there are inevitably details with which one can take issue; some of the passage work can sound a little off-hand and the finales of both Nos. 1 and 2 are open to the objection of sounding coldly efficient. Generally, however, there is much to admire throughout the whole set and No. 4 is perceptive and poetic: it is arguably the finest performance in this set. Turning to the sound quality, the recording is intelligently balanced though the engineers have not aimed for a completely natural concert-hall balance. The soloist is clearly observed without being excessively forward, orchestral detail is clear and my only reservation where balance is concerned is that the perspective is wanting slightly in depth...no one investing in these fresh and alert readings is likely to be disappointed."

-- R.L., Gramophone [1/1975]

Brahms Concertos

"The terms "classic" and "definitive", so overused that they are in danger of losing their meaning, absolutely apply to these recordings. The Fleisher/Szell Brahms Piano Concertos, recorded in 1958 and 1962, had not been available since their 1980s incarnation as Odyssey LPs. Now, in amazingly solid, vibrant remastered sound Sony has resurrected these mighty performances, which along with Fleisher's Beethoven concerto recordings, are vital documents of this pianist's early prowess--stunning technique, penetrating musicianship, and well-channeled passion. Szell's fiery, tempestuous reading of the Piano Concerto No. 1's orchestral score (with a riled up Cleveland Orchestra) has never been surpassed, let alone equaled, not even by Szell himself in his subsequent recordings. Fleisher and Szell present the Second Concerto in a grandly classical manner, relating it to Beethoven's Emperor and avoiding the massiveness and bulk of some more recent interpretations. Here the pianist tellingly combines wit and intelligence with a powerful sense of urgency. The same goes for the appended Waltzes and Handel Variations from 1956, which Fleisher plays with such brilliance that we can't wait for the next passage...get these great performances while you still can." [11/7/2000]
-- Victor Carr, ClassicsToday.com

Schubert: Sonata For Piano In B Flat Major, Ländler
In 2004 I raved about Leon Fleisher's return to two-handed repertoire, and in particular his wonderful remake of Schubert's final sonata, the work featured on his 1954 solo recorded debut. Rehearing the latter via Sony BMG/Arkivmusic.com's "original jacket" repressing (I have not heard the earlier United Archives CD reissue) it's clear that Fleisher already had a mature, insightful, and fluid handle on this work. Indeed, my descriptions of the remake's virtues easily apply here, such as the harmonic clarification and dramatic continuity governing the long first movement's well-judged tempo modifications, the slow movement's rock-solid accompaniment upon which the right-hand cantabiles effortlessly interweave, a playful yet carefully detailed Scherzo, and a Finale that mirrors Schnabel's angular exuberance with cleaner results.

The pianist's remake has the advantage of modern-day engineering, a restored first-movement exposition repeat, and the Urtext B-natural in measure 5 replacing the inauthentic C-sharp. Yet I lean toward the younger pianist's nimbler touch in the Scherzo's outer sections and the Finale's dotted-rhythm octaves. The eight Ländler culled from Op. 171 stand out for eloquent simplicity, impeccable timing, and a genuine, singing legato (try No. 5 in B minor for size). No remastering information is provided, but the sonics reveal a rounder piano tone and more tangible room ambience than some of the relatively flinty, closely miked stereo Fleisher solo discs in this series. A most welcome release!

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com

Takács, Sxton, Scriabin, Saint-Saens
"Even before Paul Wittgenstein expanded the repertoire of piano music for the left hand alone, there was a wealth of existing compositions. Scriabin had written his Two Pieces, Op. 9 as a response to tendovaginitis in his own right hand, Saint-Saens's Six Etudes, Op. 135 were written for Caroline Montigny-Remaury whose right hand had been damaged in an accident, and Leopold Godowsky had written pieces for the left hand alone which extended keyboard technique to its limits in order to show off his own extraordinary abilities.

In Takacs's Toccata and Fugue, Fleisher's intelligent, detailed approach and finely controlled contrapuntal clarity are enhanced by the vivid recording. The crisp piano sound also suits SaintSaens's Op. 135 Etudes well—particularly in movements such as the moto perpetuo and bourrêe which recall the eighteenth-century solo suite. The longest work is Brahms's transcription of the chaconne from Bach's Second Solo Violin Partita. This is a compelling performance in which Brahms's broad conception and the musical logic of his model are beautifully revealed. Saxton's Chacony was dedicated to Fleischer who gave its first performance, and here he captures the work's evocative atmosphere and process of development. Fleisher is as accomplished in the poetic warmth and expressiveness of the Scriabin pieces as he is in the overtly decorative passagework of Blumenfeld's Etude and the conscious virtuosity of Godowsky's Symphonic Metamorphoses which bring flamboyance and sparkle to the recital.

Here is an enjoyable programme which provides an interesting and valuable sample of this specialized repertoire."

-- Nicholas Rast, Gramophone [10/1993]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for Piano in B flat major, D 960 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 7/1954 
2.
German Dances (12) for Piano, D 790/Op. 171 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1823; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 7/1954 
3.
Fantasy for Piano in C major, D 760/Op. 15 "Wanderer" by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1822; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  New York City 
Length: 19 Minutes 0 Secs. 
4.
Sonata for Piano in A major, D 664/Op. 120 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1819/1825; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  New York City 
Length: 18 Minutes 8 Secs. 
5.
Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, Op. 43 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1934; USA 
6.
Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra, M 46 by César Franck
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1885; France 
7.
Irmelin: Prelude by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  George Szell
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1890-1892; Paris, France 
8.
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. 
9.
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. 
10.
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. 
11.
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. 
12.
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 
13.
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 
14.
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 
15.
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 
16.
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 
17.
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 
18.
Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D 965/Op. 129 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Benita Valente (Soprano), Harold Wright (Clarinet), Rudolf Serkin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1960 
Venue:  Marlboro School of Music, Marlboro, VT 
Length: 12 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Language: German 
19.
Liebeslieder Waltzes (18), Op. 52 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Wayne Conner (Tenor), Martial Singher (Bass), Rudolf Serkin (Piano),
Leon Fleisher (Piano), Benita Valente (Soprano), Marlena Kleinman (Alto)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868-1869; Austria 
Venue:  Marlboro School of Music, Marlboro, VT 
Length: 26 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Language: German 
20.
Quintet for Piano and Strings in F minor, Op. 34 by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Juilliard String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1861-1864; Austria 
Date of Recording: 3/11/1963 
Venue:  New York City 
21.
Sonata for Piano no 10 in C major, K 330 (300h) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1781-1783 
Date of Recording: 9/22/1958 
22.
Sonata for Piano no 4 in E flat major, K 282 (189g) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775; Munich, Germany 
Date of Recording: 9/25/1958 
23.
Rondo for Piano no 1 in D major, K 485 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 5/21/1959 
24.
Suite bergamasque by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1890/1905; France 
Date of Recording: 7/14/1958 
25.
Sonatine for Piano by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903-1905; France 
Date of Recording: 7/14/1958 
26.
Valses nobles et sentimentales by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; France 
Date of Recording: 7/14/1958 
27.
Miroirs: Alborada del gracioso by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904-1905; France 
Date of Recording: 7/14/1958 
28.
Concerto for Piano left hand no 4 in B flat major, Op. 53 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 10/15/1991 
Venue:  Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts 
Length: 23 Minutes 22 Secs. 
29.
Diversions for Piano left hand and Orchestra, Op. 21 by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940/1954; England 
Date of Recording: 10/1990 
Venue:  Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts 
Length: 26 Minutes 0 Secs. 
30.
Concerto for Piano left hand in D major by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929-1930; France 
Date of Recording: 10/1990 
Venue:  Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts 
Length: 19 Minutes 22 Secs. 
31.
Quintet for Piano left hand and Strings in G major by Franz Schmidt
Performer:  Michael Tree (Viola), Leon Fleisher (Piano), Joel Smirnoff (Violin),
Joseph Silverstein (Violin), Yo-Yo Ma (Cello)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1926; Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1993 
Venue:  Chapin Hall, Williams College, MA 
32.
Suite for Piano left hand and Strings, Op. 23 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano), Yo-Yo Ma (Cello), Jaime Laredo (Violin),
Joseph Silverstein (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930; Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1991 
Venue:  Chapin Hall, Williams College, MA 
33.
Concerto for Piano no 12 in A major, K 414 (385p) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  Leon Fleisher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1782; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 25 Minutes 4 Secs. 
34.
Concerto for 3 Pianos in F major, K 242 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Katherine Jacobson Fleisher (Piano), Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  Leon Fleisher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1776; Salzburg, Austria 
Length: 25 Minutes 12 Secs. 
35.
Concerto for Piano no 23 in A major, K 488 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  Leon Fleisher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 
Length: 26 Minutes 34 Secs. 
36.
Etudes (6) for Piano left hand, Op. 135 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1912; France 
Date of Recording: 06/1991 
Venue:  Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory 
Length: 18 Minutes 8 Secs. 
37.
Chacony for Piano left hand by Robert Saxton
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1988; England 
Date of Recording: 06/1991 
Venue:  Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory 
Length: 6 Minutes 44 Secs. 
38.
Studies (5) for Piano, Anh. 1a/1: no 5, Chaconne by Bach by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/1991 
Venue:  Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory 
Length: 16 Minutes 38 Secs. 
39.
Pieces (2) for Piano left hand, Op. 9: no 1, Prélude in C sharp minor by Alexander Scriabin
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1894; Russia 
Date of Recording: 06/1991 
Venue:  Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory 
Length: 2 Minutes 51 Secs. 
40.
Pieces (2) for Piano left hand, Op. 9: no 2, Nocturne in D major by Alexander Scriabin
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1894; Russia 
Date of Recording: 06/1991 
Venue:  Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory 
Length: 5 Minutes 56 Secs. 
41.
Symphonic metamorphoses of themes from "Schatz-Walzer" by Leopold Godowsky
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Berlin, Germany 
Date of Recording: 06/1991 
Venue:  Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory 
Length: 12 Minutes 1 Secs. 
42.
Etude for Piano left hand in A flat major, Op. 36 by Felix Blumenfeld
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905; Russia 
Date of Recording: 06/1991 
Venue:  Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory 
Length: 3 Minutes 58 Secs. 
43.
Toccata and Fugue for Piano left hand, Op. 56 by Jenöe Takács
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950 
Date of Recording: 06/1991 
Venue:  Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory 
Length: 7 Minutes 14 Secs. 
44.
Sonata for Piano by Aaron Copland
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939-1941; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/19/1962 
Venue:  CBS 30th Street Studios, New York City 
45.
From My Diary by Roger Sessions
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937-1940 
Date of Recording: 12/19/1962 
Venue:  CBS 30th Street Studios, New York City 
46.
Sonata for Piano no 1 by Leon Kirchner
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948 
Date of Recording: 12/19/1962 
Venue:  CBS 30th Street Studios, New York City 
47.
Barcarolles for Piano by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/19/1962 
Venue:  CBS 30th Street Studios, New York City 
48.
Theme and Variations for Piano and Strings "The Four Temperaments" by Paul Hindemith
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; USA 
49.
Schulwerk, Op. 44: no 4, Stückes (5) for String Orchestra by Paul Hindemith
Conductor:  Szymon Goldberg
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; Germany 
50.
Trauermusik for Viola and Strings by Paul Hindemith
Performer:  Paul Godwin (Viola)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; Germany 
51.
Concerto for Piano in A minor, Op. 16 by Edvard Grieg
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868/1907; Norway 
52.
Concerto for Piano in A minor, Op. 54 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Leon Fleisher (Piano)
Conductor:  George Szell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841-1845; Germany 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Excellently remastered collection August 13, 2013 By N. Edwards (Beulah, MI) See All My Reviews "Leon Fleisher was a shining star in the world of piano performances in the 1950's and 60's, especially when he teamed up with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra. I had many of his recordings back then and wore out two vinyl disks of Schumann's Concerto in A minor, the finest recording ever made of that piece. This set of remastered recordings equals the quality of the originals, and are a joy to hear again, especially on a good, high end system." Report Abuse
 America’s Schnabel July 22, 2013 By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH) See All My Reviews "Leon Fleisher was already established as one of America’s greatest pianists when, in his late 30s, his performing career was curtailed due to difficulties with his right hand. While Fleisher received conflicting diagnoses and medical advice, he continued to serve music by conducting, teaching, and performing the limited repertoire for left-hand alone. By the time he returned to two-handed performing about ten years ago, he was an elder statesman. From the beginning, Fleisher had an impressive resume. As a child, Pierre Monteux lauded him as “the pianistic find of the century”. Soon thereafter, he began studies with Artur Schnabel – who usually avoided teaching child prodigies. Fleisher emerged as a musician with a similar sensibility to his teacher: faithful to the composer’s text; technique solely at the service of the music; a repertoire that embraced the classics from Mozart to Schubert and dipped into the Romantics/Impressionists only slightly. But there were differences as well. Fleisher also played 20th Century repertoire – particularly American composers who Schnabel would have never touched. Fleisher was far more secure technically than his teacher. His playing was metrically straighter than Schnabel’s, who couldn’t help being born in the freer 19th Century; and Fleisher didn’t have that individualized sound that Schnabel, like all Letschetizky pupils, possessed. Fleisher’s debut recording was Schubert’s B-flat Sonata and some dances. In the Sonata, the pianist eschews the first movement repeat and there is an overall lack of atmosphere, poetry, or mystery. Fleisher plays all the notes, but there’s little sense of what’s going on behind them. The pianist returned to the B-flat Sonata (with repeat) for Vanguard in 2004 and I recommend that recording without reservation. Fleisher’s last recording before his retirement included a stunning Wanderer Fantasy, delivered with structural continuity, honesty of technique, and aplomb – although there’s a painfully obvious splice a few seconds toward the end. The Op. 120 Sonata flows with an unforced lyricism in the first two movements, transitioning to a playful finale. Fleisher successfully captures the contrasting moods of Brahms’ Handel Variations: from the rather academic presentation of the theme, to the variations which are by turns jocular, mysterious, majestic, virtuosic, and reflective, all leading to a marvelously presented fugue. Likewise, each of the 16 waltzes is given its own individual mood. In Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque, Fleisher does not go for the “hammerless piano” approach championed by Gieseking: every note is firmly on the ground. While the clarity and rhythmic vivacity in the Prelude is appreciated, the lack of color drains the other movements of their charm: You’ll never hear a drier Claire de Lune than here. Fleisher is more successful in Ravel’s Sonatine and Valses – although Rubinstein really owned the latter. In the end, these are serviceable rather than distinguished readings. The high point of this disc is Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso, where Fleisher perfectly captures the meld of the Spanish idiom with the French composer. Fleisher keeps Liszt’s B minor Sonata moving, given even the slower sections a sense of momentum - and the entire piece has a dramatic through line. I’ve never been able to get into Weber’s Sonata and that didn’t change with this recording. Fleisher’s performance of Invitation to the Dance brings back memories of Schnabel’s recording of that piece, although Fleisher’s clarity in several of the parallel runs goes beyond what his teacher achieved. American piano music: Copland’s sole Piano Sonata is given a searching, searing reading – the rather brightly voiced piano suits the starkness of the piece. Rorem’s Three Barcarolles, works which deserve to be heard more often, are played with untrammeled lyricism, even in the lively final work. The remaining pieces were, frankly, less interesting – works by composers riding contemporaneous trends rather than genuine composing (the Sessions Sonata, in particular, sounds like warmed over Messiaen). Concertos: For many, the highlight of this set will be Fleisher’s collaboration with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra - Fleisher’s exclusive orchestral recording partner until his hand troubles. Fleisher’s crisp, no-nonsense phrasing works well with Szell’s whip-cracking intensity, even in music where one wouldn’t expect them to excel – like Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Rhapsody. This is a performance of which the composer (who eschewed sentimentality in his own performances) would have approved. The Franck Symphonic Variations gets off to a measured start and only catches fire in the last few minutes. One certainly can’t say Mozart’s Concerto 25 is lacking in fire, even though it’s in the benign key of C major. Szell starts the first movement in crisply articulated style, with a brisk tempo, and Fleisher carries the piano part with subtle pedaling and astutely-judged dynamics. The songful andante features glowing woodwinds, while the finale is graceful whirl and dash. (Fleisher himself conducts the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra in three Mozart concertos on the final disc of this set, recorded in 2008. The performances are relaxed and autumnal; any doubts as to Fleisher’s recovery fade upon hearing the clear and articulate right hand passagework.) In keeping with the custom of his generation, Fleisher does not embellish the rather bare bones piano part in the slow movements. Fleisher and Szell initially recorded Beethoven’s G major Concerto (coupled with Mozart’s Concerto 25), and only wound up recording the whole cycle after a casual suggestion by the recording producer, Howard Scott. We owe Mr. Scott a big round of applause, as this possibly the finest Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle by an American pianist, orchestra, and conductor (Szell took United States citizenship in 1946). The G major has just the right balance of lyricism, pathos (in the central movement) and sparkle. Fleisher’s playing in the two early concertos serves as a reminder that Beethoven initially conquered Vienna as a virtuoso pianist, not a composer – the way he tears through the cadenza in the opening movement of Concerto 1 is beyond brilliant. Szell matches Fleisher bar-for-bar with tightly coiled conducting, except in the middle movements which are expansive without lapsing into sogginess. That’s also largely true of the C minor concerto, which is played through a classicist’s prism. The Emperor Concerto is largely devoid of the pomp usually heard; this monarch is lean and lithe, wearing his imperial garb lightly. Mutuality is everywhere evident in this cycle. The Brahms D minor Concerto is given a propulsive, dynamic performance that reminds the listener that the composer was a young man when this was written. Fleisher’s playing is vibrant without being forced, while Szell manages to make the rather muddy orchestration sound lean and clear. The B-flat Concerto is exceptionally detailed, helped by Fleisher’s sparing use of the sustaining pedal. Jules Eskin’s cello solo in the slow movement is beyond beautiful, and integrally balanced with the accompaniment. By and large, these are my favorite stereo Brahms concertos, although I wouldn’t want to be without Rubinstein/Reiner in the D minor. One wouldn’t normally associate the Fleisher/Szell partnership with Grieg and Schumann, but the popular coupling of A minor Concertos are presented with freshness, crisp attacks in the faster sections, and relaxed, unforced poetry in the slow movements. Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes, with Rudolf Serkin on the other piano, are given a reflective, flexible rendition. Fleisher and the Juilliard String Quartet are seamlessly integrated in the F minor Quintet - this is chamber playing at its finest. Left Hand works: It has been said that art thrives on limitations, and this may be the case with Fleisher. For one thing, he was compelled to explore repertoire he might have otherwise ignored, such as Godowsky and Saint-Saëns. The various left-hand performances here are freer, more interesting, and have a greater variety of tonal color (although that may be, in part, a result of recording technology). Further, despite using only one hand, the dynamics are multi-layered in a way lacking in the earlier recordings. The separation of voices as heard in the solo album (particularly in the two Scriabin works) is astonishing. Whatever the repertoire, Fleisher remains a solid musician, and his Ravel concerto (normally a showpiece for pianists to demonstrate their left hand technique) has a sense of structural solidity that makes the performance all the more exciting. Ozawa and the Boston Symphony furnish an able accompaniment here and in the Prokofiev and Britten works. This 23CD set contains all of Fleisher’s recordings for Columbia/Epic and Sony. He made a few recordings for Vanguard which are not included; collectors should seek these out. This box is presented in the original album format, which means most of the discs have short playing times, but the sequencing of the works is as originally intended by the performer. The front and back covers are reproduced, so with a magnifying glass, the original liner notes can be read – but the last four albums did not have liner notes on the back cover." Report Abuse
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