Leon Fleisher - one of the most refined and transcendent Pianists America has ever produced.

Leon Fleisher With Pierre Monteux And The Boston Symphony – Tanglewood – 1962 – Past Daily Mid-Week Concert

Leon Fleisher – one of the most refined and transcendent Pianists America has ever produced.

Leon Fleisher, Piano – Pierre Monteux, Cond. – Boston Symphony In Concert – Tanglewood – August 11,1962 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

More history this week. From the Tanglewood Festival in Massachusets, the Boston Symphony conducted by Pierre Monteux and featuring Leon Fleisher, piano and music of Brahms – recorded on August 11, 1962.

This is a rather short concert (coming in just under an hour). The middle work is missing; the Enigma Variations of Elgar. So only the opening work, the Prelude to Act 1 of Die Meistersinger by Wagner, followed by the Brahms Piano Concerto Number 2 are on this post.

This was a hobbyists recording made in 1962 and, like most home recordings at the time, reel to reel tape was a precious commodity. Part of the reason most of these recordings aren’t complete is that the person recording them only had enough tape on a reel for about an hour (unless they had the luxury of a second tape recorder or the extra cash to buy a reel of tape that would last two hours, the length of the average radio broadcast concert).

So even though it would have been nice to hear Monteux’s take on Elgar, sacrificing Leon Fleisher would have been tragic. So choices were no doubt made. The other side of the coin is more frustrating – getting all but the last 20 seconds of the final work, which is usually something devastatingly rare – lost to the ages because the person recording the concert didn’t figure out the amount of time they needed. It happened, far too often in the 1950s and 1960s.

In any event, any live performance by Leon Fleisher is an interesting one, or even Pierre Monteux for that matter.

Leon Fleisher began playing piano at the age of four, and began studying with Artur Schnabel at age nine. He was particularly well known for his interpretations of the two piano concertos of Brahms and the five concertos of Beethoven, which he recorded with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra. With Szell, he also recorded concertos by Mozart, Grieg, Schumann, Franck, and Rachmaninoff.

In 1964, he lost the use of his right hand due to a neurological condition eventually diagnosed as focal dystonia, forcing him to focus on the repertoire for the left hand, such as Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand and many compositions written for him. In 2004, he played the world premiere of Paul Hindemith’s Klaviermusik, a piano concerto for the left hand completed in 1923, with the Berlin Philharmonic. He regained some control of his right hand then, and played and recorded two-hand repertoire. Fleisher died in August of 2020.

Enjoy the concert.

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