Flashes of Genius

April 1, 2008

Leon Fleisher's musical genius appeared early. He began studying classical piano at the age of four, had his first public recital at eight, and made his Carnegie Hall debut at sixteen. Despite his agonizing bout with focal dystonia, which forced him to put his recording and performing career on hold, Fleisher has had a remarkable creative output. The Library of Congress has a comprehensive Fleisher discography through 2004 available on its digital archives. Some more recent releases offer a representative sampling of Fleisher's work.

  • Leon Fleisher: Two Hands
     
    Leon Fleisher: Two Hands (Artemis Classics, 2004) The first recording Fleisher made after regaining the use of his right hand, this CD features works by Bach, Chopin, Debussy, and Scarlatti. Junior Michael Wood, who took a master class with Fleisher during his Duke visit, says that Two Handsrepresents "a paradigm of Fleisher's playing style. His reserved and delicate approach to Bach first struck me as rather odd, though, with time, I learned to appreciate how he can convey even more subtleties through his approach." 
     
  • Grieg, Schumann: Piano Concertos
     
    Grieg, Schumann: Piano Concertos(Sony, original recording remastered 2005) Featuring compositions by Grieg and Schumann, this disc is one of several collaborations among Fleisher, conductor George Szell, and the Cleveland Orchestra. Originally recorded in 1960, this recording finds Fleisher "in his muscular prime," says Randall Love, associate professor of the practice of music. "The rhythms are strong and the sound burnished, perfect for these concertos."
     
  • The Essential Leon Fleisher
     
    The Essential Leon Fleisher (Sony Classics, original recording remastered in 2008) Reissued in conjunction with Fleisher's 2007 Kennedy Center Honor and eightieth birthday, this anthology features highlights from his most critically acclaimed recordings. There are also never-before-released gems, such as Fleisher's 1963 recording with the Juilliard String Quartet of Brahms' "Piano Quintet in F Minor," and the opening movement of Schubert's "Sonata in B-Flat Major," Fleisher's first recording for Columbia Masterworks in 1954.