MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 12 in A, K. 414. Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K. 486. Concerto No. 7 in F for Three Pianos arr. for Two Pianos by Mozart
Leon Fleisher, piano; Katherine Jacobson Fleisher, piano (Concerto No. 7); Stuttgart Chamber Orch/Leon Fleisher, cond.
SONY CLASSICAL 88697435052 (F) TT: 77:36

HINDEMITH: Klaviermusik mit Orchester (for Piano Left Hand). DVORÁK: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 "From the New World."
Leon Fleisher, pianist; Curtis Orch/Christoph Eschenbach, cond.
ONDINE ODE 1141 (F) TT: 64:18

RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto "No. 5" (arr. by Alexander Warenberg from Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27)
Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy, piano; Janácek Philharmonic Orch/Theodore Kuchar, cond.

NAZARETH: Vem cé, Branquinha. GOTTSCHALK: Suis Moi! Caprice. PIAZZOLA: Flora's Game. GINASTERA: Piano Sonata Nol. 1. VILLA-LOBOS: Chorus No. 5 "Alma Breasileira." BEACH: Fire-flies, Op. 15 No. 4. BONDS: Troubled Water. BOLCOM: Nine New Bagatelles. BARBER: Piano Sonata, Op. 26.
Joel Fan, pianist

BOWEN: Ballade No. 2, Op. 87. Three Songs without Words, Op. 94. From Three Preludes, Op. 81. Short Sonata, Op. 35 No. 1. Three Miniatures, Op. 44. Three Serious Dances, Op. 51. Toccata, Op. 155. Three Pieces, Op. 20
Joop Celis, pianist
CHANDOS CD 10506 (F) TT: 79:20

Triple Concerto in C, Op. 56 (John Corigliano, violin; Leonard Rose, cello; Walter Hendl, piano; New York Philharmonic/Bruno Walter, cond. Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Op. 15. Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 19. Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37. Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58. Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat, Op. 73 "Emperor." (Rudolf Serkin, piano; Philadelphia Orch/Eugene Ormandy, cond. Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61 (Zino Francescatti, violin; Philadelphia Orch/Eugene Ormandy, cond.) Romance No. 1 in G, Op. 40. Romance No. 2 in F, Op. 50 (Zino Francescatti, violin; Columbia Symphony Orch/Jean Morel, cond.)
BEARAC REISSUES BRC 3169 (4 mono disks) TT: 73:43 / 60:11 / 70:31 / 60:13

Here are six intriguing releases for the pianophile. Any new recording by legendary Leon Fleisher is welcome and here we have his remarkable performances of three Mozart concertos in which he is both soloist and conductor recorded July 16-19, 2008 in Stuttgart's Conservatory. Based on these loving, perfectly executed performances, one would never suspect since 1965 Fleisher had problems with his right hand—which now are fortunately resolved. During his earlier association with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra Fleisher recorded a magnificent performance of Mozart's Concerto No. 25. Fleisher has been playing the less demanding Concerto No. 12 for some years now, but Concerto No. 23 is a recent addition to his current repertory (he played it many years ago including a live performance with Bruno Walter in Los Angeles 1965, available on CD). New to his repertory is K. 242 in which he is ably joined by his wife, Kathleen Jacobson Fleisher, who has appeared with him many times in concerts. This is a wonderful addition to Fleisher's discography.

Equally important is Ondine's CD of a major work of Paul Hindemith, his Klaviermusik with Orchestra, Op. 29, written in 1923 for Paul Wittgenstein—who never performed it. The score was owned by the composer's widow and finally, 81 years after it was written, the score became available. The world premiere took place December 9, 2004 with Fleisher, Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic. Now we have this recording with Fleisher accompanied by the excellent Curtis Orchestra directed by Christoph Eschenbach recorded live in Philadelphia's Verizon Hall April 27, 2008. This four-movement work, 18 minutes in length, obviously is very demanding for the soloist; it is easy to understand why Wittgenstein didn't play it—but the technical problems don't exist for Fleisher. A live recording of this music can be found on the internet with Fleisher and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra directed by Markus Stenz from March 2006. The Curtis Orchestra sounds a bit scrappy in their accompaniment—they cannot match the finesse or richness of the Dutch orchestra. The student orchestra fares better in Eschenbach's dynamic performance of Dvorák's From the New World (surely one of the oddest couplings on CD). This is a valuable recording primarily for the Hindemith.

I approached this issue of Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 5" with trepidation. This project was brought to fruition by Pieter van Winkel who loves the composer's Symphony No. 2 and felt it should be adapted for piano and orchestra. Winkel asked pianist Alexander Warenberg, whose solo career was halted by an injury, to convert the symphony into a concerto—and it worked quite successfully! Warenberg turned the four movements into three, generally following the composer's style, and made some imaginative changes in orchestration. As you listen to this you will often be reminded of Concerto No. 3. Everything has been admirably adapted, and the "Rachmaninoff style" is always apparent. To me, the only weakness is the very beginning of the work: the first 90 seconds is the actual opening of the symphony. How much more effective it would have been if the piano played soft low chords to accompany this opening. However, this is a grand-scale conception and it is beautifully played by pianist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy with strong accompaniment from the Janácek Orchestra and conductor Theodore Kuchar. Audio quality is excellent, with the piano nicely balanced with the orchestra. An intriguing issue, indeed, and one I will return to often.

Young pianist Joel Fan, who studied with Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Conservatory, is at the beginning of what already is a major career. He is a member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, and has been acclaimed for his virtuoso playing of a wide variety of repertory. West of the Sun, his second disk for Reference Recordings, offers nine works by nine different composers of North and South America, ranging from miniatures by Beach and Gottschalk to sonatas by Barber and Ginastera. Stylish, vivid performances, beautifully recorded in quality audio we have come to expect from the label.

Young Dutch pianist Joop Celis is recording solo piano works of British composer York Bowen (1884-1961); this is the third disk in the series. Celis specializes in this composer's music, has given many concert performances of it, written essays and given lectures about it. Included are six premiere recordings as well as the dazzling Toccata edited by Stephen Hough from the autograph score (Hough has a Hyperion CD devoted exclusively to Bowen's music). This site recently mentioned an extraordinary Hyperion CD of Bowen's Piano Concertos 3 and 4 (REVIEW). This new Chandos issue is welcome indeed, unjustly neglected music by a fascinating British composer. As usual with Chandos, audio quality is first-rate.

Again we are indebted to Bearac Reissues for reissuing many major recordings of the past, in splendid transfers. The Beethoven concertos always played an important part in Rudolf Serkin's career; he made his American debut February 23, 1936 playing Concerto No. 4 with Arturo Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic and in 1944 played it again with the same conductor and the NBC Symphony (both available on Guild). There are many other commercial and live Serkin performances of the concertos including live1977 recordings of all five with the Bavarian Radio Symphony directed by Rafael Kubelik, and his last recording of the complete set, in 1982, with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony (Telarc). Now, thanks to Bearac we have Serkin's first commercial recordings made with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. To say these are lively performances is to put it mildly. The pianist was in his prime, and the accompaniments could not be bettered. Zino Francescatti also is captured relatively early in his career in the violin concerto. Another plus is inclusion of the Triple Concerto with three distinguised soloists conducted by Bruno Walter. Bearac has used "a custom process called MSE (Mono Spatial Enhancement)" that provides a highly successful updating of the original monophonic sound. This set is invaluable for collectors, and thank you, once again, BEARAC REISSUES.

R.E.B. (April 2009)