CD Review: Leon Fleisher, vols. 1 & 2 (DOREMI)

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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

Leon Fleisher Live Vol. 1.
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 (Boston Symphony/Pierre Monteux, July 20, 1958). Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 (Boston Symphony/Pierre Monteux, Aug 11, 1962). Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 23 (Musica Aeterna Orchestra/Frederic Waldman, Nov 23, 1964). Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 25 (Berlin Philharmonic/George Szell, Aug 3, 1957).
DOREMI DHR-8158/9 (2 CDs)

Leon Fleisher Live Vol. 2
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 (Concertgebouw Orchestra/Pierre Monteux, May 14, 1962). Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 23 (Los Angeles Philharmonic/Bruno Walter, June 12, 1949.)
DOREMI DHR-8160.

These new releases constitute an absolute treasure trove of live performances by the late American pianist Leon Fleisher (1928-2020). Fleisher lost the use of his right hand in 1964. After a series of treatments over the years he was finally able to return to playing two-hand repertoire but not at the same level. The performances and recordings from before 1964 remain the best examples of his exceptional talent.

Fleisher and Conductor George Szell had an especially close relationship and recorded both Brahms concertos for CBS with the Cleveland Orchestra. However, these live Brahms performances with Pierre Monteux are not to be missed. Monteux was a legendary conductor of French music but his Brahms was pretty authoritative, too.  The 1962 performance with the Concertgebouw Orchestra is especially memorable for the warmth and richness of the sound and for the intensity overall.

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Fleisher and Szell also recorded Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 with the Cleveland Orchestra, but this live version with the Berlin Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival is every bit as good, and maybe more animated in the last movement. All in all, these are superb performances and Jacob Harnoy’s remastering is exemplary.

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

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About Author

Former conductor and broadcaster, Paul E. Robinson, is the author of four books on conductors, Digital Editor for Classical Voice America, and a regular contributor to La Scena Musicale.

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