MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 12, 7 and 23 – Leon Fleisher, p. & conductor/ Stuttgart Chamber Orch. – Sony Classical 88697435052, 77:34 *****:
Leon Fleisher was forced to give up a brilliant career as a pianist when he lost the use of his right hand following an illness. Before he became sick he made some wonderful recordings that I remember quite fondly. His 1958 recording of the Brahms Piano Concertos featuring the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by George Szell is considered a classic. They were released as part of Sony Classics’ Masterworks Heritage collection more than a decade ago in special LP-style packaging. They still occupy pride-of-place on my music shelves as some of the finest Brahms recordings ever made.
Following the loss of the use of his right hand Fleisher confined himself to recording the left-hand piano repertoire such as the Ravel Concerto for the Left Hand. He also taught extensively. As Fleisher approached his 80th birthday, he underwent special therapy and regained use of his right hand. He has returned to the recording studio and has now given us this splendid disc of three Mozart Piano Concertos. The first concerto on this disc is the Piano Concerto No. 12 in A major K. 414. It was probably written in 1782 as part of a trio of piano concertos for Mozart’s own use. The concerto is a happy work that reflects Mozart’s pleasure in being on his own and away from Salzburg, a city he felt was stifling his creativity. In a famous letter to his father he describes this concerto and its two siblings as being pleasing and neither too easy nor too hard to play. Mr. Fleisher plays this work with confidence and grace. To my ears his technique sounds loose and easy without a hint of rustiness. He conducts the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester who are quite good.
The second work on this CD is the Piano Concerto No. 7 in F major for three pianos ("Lodron Concerto") K. 242 arranged for two pianos by Mozart himself. It is a slightly more difficult piece to play. Here Mr. Fleisher is joined by Katherine Jacobson Fleisher. They play this music with all of the beauty of tone and expressive verve that makes listening to Mozart such a pleasure. By using Mozart’s arrangement we do not miss the third piano. The final work on this disc is the Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major K. 488. It is one of Mozart’s most popular concertos with many beautiful melodies and a melancholy Adagio movement. Mr. Fleisher plays this concerto with a casual flair in the two outer movements and with deep sadness in the Adagio; This CD is a fine Mozart recording.
The sound on this disc is clear and bright. The pianos sound as if they are in the center front of the orchestra and always very much the focus of these recordings.
— Mike Birman