Leon Fleisher, piano = BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major; Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major; GLUCK: Iphigenie in Aulis Overture – Cologne Radio Symphony Orch./Hans Rosbaud/Otto Klemperer (Op. 58; Gluck) – Medici Masters

by | Oct 6, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Leon Fleisher, piano = BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19; Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58; GLUCK: Iphigenie in Aulis Overture – Leon Fleisher, piano/Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hans Rosbaud/Otto Klemperer (Op. 58; Gluck)

Medici Masters MM036-2, 72:02 [www.mediciarts.co.uk] ****: [Distrib. by Naxos]

Leon Fleisher (b. 1928) currently enjoys a resurgence of interest, given his legendary cult status among living performers. From concerts in Cologne, Germany, we hear his sparkling lightly incisive style in the Beethoven B-flat Concerto (18 November 1957), working with Hans Rosbaud, better known for his penchant for modern scores but equally comfortable amidst the diaphanous clarities of Classical repertory.  Utilizing spare pedal effects, Fleisher exacts a brilliant Mozartean grace in the fluid Allegro con brio, while the woodwinds respond with burnished urgency to Rosbaud’s baton. The lovely E-flat Major Adagio rings with clarion delicacy, a virtual aria that might have been inspired by Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio. The fluidly ornamental agility of the collaboration often hearkens to the Mozart B-flat Concerto, K. 595, in the same key.  The Rondo: Molto allegro proceeds at breakneck speed, more Presto con brio, jaunty, irreverent, bubbling with high-flown wit and jubilant momentum.

In our brief conversation in San Jose, California, Fleisher characterized his work with Otto Klemperer (1885-1973) as “rife with a sense of the transcendent.” Here, the Beethoven G Major and Gluck Overture comprise part of the same Cologne concert (27 February 1956). The G Major Beethoven Concerto (which had previous incarnation on an Arkadia CD) luxuriates in Beethoven’s long Apollinian lines, the motto of the Fifth Symphony in its gentler Aeolian persona. Alternately dramatic and lyric, the first movement proceeds with a heavy authority that does not fall into lassitude or cluttered density. Fleisher’s sparkling fioritura injects many rushes of renewed energy into the interweaving fabric of the evolving texture, particularly in the inflamed but pearly transition to the recapitulation. The E Minor Andante con moto quells dark forces over its broad five-minute realization, culminating in Fleisher’s stunning trill that suggests Orpheus’ beguiling of the Furies. The magical move from subdominant C to G Major proceeds with lithe energy, the plastic rhythms and sudden burst of light cascading to poetically ardent figures that bespeak Fleisher as a natural Beethoven exponent of immaculate pedigree.

The Overture to Gluck’s 1774 opera Iphigenie in Aulis has had three monumental inscriptions by Germany’s leading interpreters: Furtwaengler, Abendroth, and Klemperer. Treated to alternative endings by both Mozart and Wagner, Gluck’s mighty overture contains four distinct themes, worked out in resonant harmonies and stretti that well anticipate the intensity of Beethoven. Woodwinds, strings and tympani collaborate in transparently tragic tones to suggest the mythic forces at work that prevent the Greek ships from setting out for Troy, and the high price Agamemnon had to pay to set his fleet into motion.

–Gary Lemco

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