Remembering Leon Fleisher: Three Legendary Recordings

Leon Fleisher, the eminent American pianist, passed away last Sunday in Baltimore following a battle with cancer. He was 92. Born in San Francisco, Fleisher made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 16 with Pierre Monteux and the New York Philharmonic. He performed Brahms’ First Piano Concerto, a work which would later become a signature part of his repertoire. At 23, he became the first American to win the Queen Elisabeth …

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Beethoven’s Violin Concerto: Perlman, Barenboim, and the Berlin Philharmonic (1992 Live Performance)

It’s one of the great monuments of the violin repertoire—the Concerto that set the standard for all others that followed. Yet, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major was not received particularly well when it was premiered at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien on December 23, 1806. It’s believed that Beethoven finished parts of the score so late that the soloist, Franz Clement, may have been sight-reading some passages in the concert. Additionally, …

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Heifetz in Hollywood: Miklós Rózsa’s Violin Concerto

Miklós Rózsa’s career as a composer was built on a fascinating dichotomy. Beginning in 1937, Rózsa produced some of the twentieth century’s most memorable and spacious film scores, including the Arabian fantasy The Thief of Bagdad (1940), the Alfred Hitchcock film noir psychological thriller Spellbound (1945), and the epic historical drama Ben-Hur (1959). The composer, who emigrated to the United States from his native Hungary in 1940, also created numerous enduring concert works, infused with …

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Remembering Ida Haendel

The eminent Polish-born violinist Ida Haendel passed away Tuesday at the age of 91. As a student of Carl Flesch and George Enescu, Haendel represented one of the last direct links to the distinctive and personal violin playing of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As a child prodigy, she was a top prize winner in the first Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition, where she competed against such towering figures as David Oistrakh …

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Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-Flat Major: Mitsuko Uchida and the ECO

Mozart was hard at work on The Marriage of Figaro when he completed the Piano Concerto in E-flat Major, K. 482 on December 16, 1785. As with many of his instrumental works, the Concerto is infused with a vibrant sense of operatic drama. From the bold fanfare which functions as a “call to order” at the beginning of the first movement, colorful musical “characters” take the stage and enter into a continuous stream of …

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Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, The Netherlands Bach Society

In 1711, a collection of violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi was published in Amsterdam under the title, L’estro armonico (“The Harmonic Inspiration”). It was a prime example of the Baroque concerto grosso form, in which a solo instrument, or small group of instruments, engage in continuous dialogue with a larger ensemble. The British musicologist Michael Talbot has called L’estro armonico “perhaps the most influential collection of instrumental music to appear during the whole of the …

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Saint-Saëns’ Second Piano Concerto: Fazıl Say in Concert

After hearing the premiere of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 2, the pianist and composer Sigmond Stojowski remarked that it “began with Bach and ended with Offenbach.” Indeed, this is music which takes us on a wildly exhilarating and mercurial ride. Its structure shakes up the traditional concerto form with a slow and solemn first movement, a bright scherzo for the second movement, and a concluding presto. In May of 1868, the …

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