Magazine article Gramophone

Celebrating Leon Fleisher

Magazine article Gramophone

Celebrating Leon Fleisher

Article excerpt

Few pianists of the past 50 or so years combine intellectual rigour and technical finesse as tellingly as Leon Fleisher, a Schnabel pupil whose Beethoven piano concerto cycle under George Szell is still considered a model of its kind. Likewise the two Brahms concertos with Szell and, particularly, the Brahms Piano Quintet with the Juilliard String Quartet, all of which are included in Sony's sturdy, well-designed 2 3-CD 'Leon Fleisher: The Complete Album Collection'. Some recordings may not be quite so familiar to UK collectors: for example, other collaborations with Szell, all of them informed by the same levels of light virtuosity and fierce intelligence, include Rachmaninov's Paganini Rhapsody, Franck's Symphonic Variations, Mozart's C major Piano Concerto, K503, and the Grieg and Schumann concertos. An impressive early recording of Schubert's B flat Sonata suggests a greater, more mature musician waiting in the wings, but the benefits of hearing Liszt's Sonata, Brahms's Handel Variations, Weber's Fourth Sonata and programmes devoted to solo Mozart and French music (Debussy and Ravel) serve to refresh and invigorate repertoire that in other hands often makes a less probing impression. Even where you wouldn't necessarily have Fleisher as a first choice, he'd make a pretty absorbing second or third. …

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