NEW YORK, July 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- On July 16, Sony Classical will release Leon Fleisher: The Complete Album Collection—a 23-CD deluxe box set spanning the legendary pianist's fifty-five years recording for the Columbia/Epic and Sony Classical labels from 1954-2009, yielding some of classical music's definitive recordings. The release comes exactly one week before Fleisher's 85th birthday on July 23, 2013, and is supported by a full schedule of appearances as pianist, conductor, and mentor, in the coming year.
This expansive collection illuminates an epic career, beginning with Fleisher's earliest recordings from the treasured decade between 1954 and 1963. The signing of Leon Fleisher to Columbia Masterworks/Epic made musical history in 1954, when George Szell, conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, approached him to record every major work ever written for piano and orchestra. Included here are Fleisher's iconic Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Schumann and Grieg concerto collaborations with Szell and the Clevelanders, as well as his highly acclaimed solo and chamber music recordings.
At the height of his career in 1965, Leon Fleisher was suddenly limited to playing with only his left hand when focal dystonia disabled his right. But he refused to let this affliction stop him from championing the one-handed repertoire. This collection includes two discs capturing Fleisher at the peak of his reemergence playing solo works, plus a third disc of Piano Concertos for the Left Hand with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Seiji Ozawa.
Following revolutionary 21st century treatments, Fleisher has remarkably resumed his performance of two-hand repertoire. The New York Times profiled the renaissance of his career in a profile headlined A Pianist for Whom Never Was Never an Option, calling Fleisher "a symbol of the indomitable human spirit." The last disc here of three Mozart piano concertos was released in 2009, his first two-hand concerto recording in over 40 years.
"Fleisher plays fewer notes than most pianists but they mean more." - The Boston Globe
Beyond Fleisher's formidable reputation in interpreting the works of the Viennese school, he has earned a "reputation for piercing to the heart of things with the lyrical insights of a poet" (The Wall Street Journal). At age 9, Fleisher had become the youngest-ever student of pianist Artur Schnabel, continuing a pedagogical lineage that traces back to Beethoven, which engendered a lifelong connection to music, beyond simply the piano. In a recent interview Fleisher explained, "The German tradition is metaphysical. It connects with the greater cosmos. It asks in what way am I like a brook or a tree. Beethoven, for example, always strives for things beyond the merely personal. And the breadth is unbelievable—from Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven to Brahms."
Fleisher's Brahms piano concerto recordings are still considered definitive today; in 2007, Yo-Yo Ma named Fleisher's 1958 Brahms' Concerto No. 1 his favorite classical recording, citing the pianist's "virile and full-blooded performance." The recordings of the five Beethoven piano concertos were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.
Tour Dates & Appearances
Leon Fleisher continues to pursue endeavors that have kept him in the public eye for nearly seven decades, and this summer's highlights include performances with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood (Lenox, MA) on July 12, and with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia Festival (Highland Park, IL) on July 28. He will spend the first two weeks of July in residence at Marlboro Music in Vermont, exploring works by Hindemith and Stravinsky, mentoring and conducting the program's young professional musicians.
For the 2013-14 concert season, Fleisher will be the Cleveland Orchestra's new Artist-in-Residence (a career recap; he was conductor George Szell's first soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra in 1947), returning this December for the first time since 2003 to make his Severance Hall conducting debut, in a program including Beethoven's Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 with Mitsuko Uchida as soloist. He'll appear at Carnegie Hall also in December, in concert with the New York String Orchestra under the baton of Jaime Laredo.
Fleisher has earned a reputation among students as the 'Obi-Wan Kenobi' of the piano, and he'll return to lead master classes at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Yale University, and Steans Institute at Ravinia, as well as a weeklong residency at the Curtis Institute of Music. He holds a position at the Royal Conservatory of Music, and since 1959 has held a position at the Peabody Institute, which established the Leon Fleisher Scholars Fund for Piano Students in 2012.
For a full list of upcoming concerts and appearances, please click here.
About Leon Fleisher
Born in San Francisco in 1928, Fleisher was a child prodigy who gave his first public performance when he was eight. A year later he began studying with the great German pianist Artur Schnabel, and by age 16, in 1944, made his Carnegie Hall debut playing with Pierre Monteux and the New York Philharmonic. Over the next two decades, he performed around the world and garnered numerous honors, including first prize at the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Piano Competition in Belgium in 1952. He concertized with every major orchestra and made numerous touchstone recordings for Columbia/Epic under the direction of George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra. In 1965, at age 36, he was suddenly struck silent with a neurological affliction later identified as focal dystonia, rendering two fingers on his right hand immobile. Rather than end his career, Fleisher forged a renewed life in music, focusing on repertoire for the left hand only, and establishing a new path as soloist, conductor and teacher. In the new millennium, experimental treatments using a regimen of Rolfing and 'botulinum toxin' (Botox) injections finally restored the mobility in Fleisher's right hand.
A recipient of numerous honors and awards, Fleisher received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in 2007 for his contribution to U.S. culture, and he is the subject of the 2006 Oscar- and Emmy-nominated documentary film Two Hands, written and directed by Nathaniel Kahn (My Architect). His memoir, My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music, co-written with Washington Post music critic Anne Midgette, is available on Doubleday. He and his wife, Katherine Jacobson Fleisher, a noted pianist with whom he frequently tours, live in Baltimore, Md.
For a glimpse into My Nine Lives, readers can view book excerpts paired with musical excerpts online here.
Leon Fleisher: The Complete Album Collection (SONY Masterworks, July 16, 2013)
All 23 single album titles are housed in a functional chest with removable lid, each CD packaged in a mini-"LP" style cardboard slipcase with original artwork and spine.
DISC 1 Schubert: Sonata in B-Flat Major; Schubert: Landler, Op. 171 (released 1956)
DISC 2 Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, Op. 43; Franck: Symphonic Variations; Delius: Irmelin-Prelude (released 1957)
DISC 3 Brahms: Variations and Fugue on a theme of Handel, Op. 24; Waltzes, Op. 39171 (released 1956)
DISC 4 Hindemith: The Four Temperaments; Hindemith: Five Pieces, Op. 44, No. 4; Hindemith: Funeral Music for Viola and Strings (released 1956)
DISC 5 Brahms: Concerto No. 1, Op. 15 Leon Fleisher - The Cleveland Orchestra - George Szell (released 1958)
DISC 6 Debussy: Suite Bergamasque; Ravel: Sonatine; Ravel: Valses Nobles et Sentimentales; Ravel: Alborada del Gracioso (from "Miroirs") (released 1959)
DISC 7 Beethoven: Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58; Mozart: Concerto No. 25 in C Major (K. 503) (released 1959)
DISC 8 Mozart: Sonata in C Major (K. 330); Sonata in E-Flat Major (K. 282); Rondo in D Major (K. 485) (released 1960)
DISC 9 Liszt: Sonata in B Minor; Weber: Sonata No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 70; Weber: Invitation to the dance, Op. 65 (released 1960)
DISC 10 Grieg: Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16; Schumann: Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54 (released 1960)
DISC 11 Chamber Music from Marlboro: Brahms: Liebeslieder Walzer, Op. 52; Schubert: The Shepherd on the rock, Op. 129 (released 1961)
DISC 12 Beethoven: Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15 (released 1961)
DISC 13 Beethoven: Concerto No. 2 in B Flat Major, Op. 19; Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 (released 1961)
DISC 14 Beethoven: Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37 (released 1961)
DISC 15 Beethoven: Concerto No. 5 in E Flat Major, Op. 73 (released 1961)
DISC 16 Brahms: Concerto No. 2, Op. 83 (released 1963)
DISC 17 Aaron Copland: Piano Sonata; Roger Sessions: From my diary; Kirchner: Piano Sonata; Rorem: Three Barcarolles (released 1963)
DISC 18 Brahms: Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34; Leon Fleisher - Juilliard String Quartet (released 1963)
DISC 19 Schubert: "Wanderer" Fantasy in C Major, Op. 15 (D. 760); Piano Sonata in A Major, Op. 120 (D. 664) (released 1963)
DISC 20 Piano Works for the Left Hand: Takács, Saint-Saens, Saxton, Bach, Blumenfeld, Scriabin, Godowsky (released 1993)
DISC 21 Piano Concertos for the Left Hand: Ravel, Prokofiev, Britten (Boston Symphony Orchestra; Seiji Ozawa, conductor) (released 1993)
DISC 22 Korngold, Schmidt: Music for Strings and Piano Left Hand (Jaime Laredo, violin; Yo-yo Ma, cello; Leon Fleisher, piano) (released 1998)
DISC 23 Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 7, 12, 23 (released 2009)
SOURCE Sony Classical