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Leon Fleisher: The complete album collection (Coffret 23 CD) Coffret
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Descriptions du produit
Intégrale des enregistrements studio
SORTIE LE 03/06/2013
Sony Classical célèbre le 85ème anniversaire du pianiste Leon Fleisher avec ce coffret de 23CDs présentant l'intégralité de ses enregistrements studios.
Pianiste américain considéré comme une légende vivante, Leon Fleisher a été le plus jeune élève d'Artur Schnabel ce qui lui a certainement permis de remporter le 1er prix en 1952 du concours Reine Elisabeth à Bruxelles qui lança sa carrière internationale.
Il a lui-même été par la suite le professeur d'Hélène Grimaud ou de Yefim Bronfman pour ne citer qu'eux.
Plus tard, il perd progressivement l'usage de sa main droite, et se concentre alors sur un répertoire pour main gauche, jusqu'à il y a quelques années où il a enfin pu en guérir, comme en témoigne son dernier enregistrement.
Ce coffret explore les méandres personnels et musicaux de son parcours professionnel. On y entend Leon Fleisher peu de temps après sa victoire à Bruxelles, ou bien des concertos de Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms et Schumann en collaboration avec George Szell, ainsi que de nombreux enregistrements en solo, tous plébiscités par la critique. Un magnifique témoignage.
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Voici le programme de ce coffret très vivement recommandé.Lire la suite ›
moderne franc clair d'une virtuosité éléguante .J'aime sa vision dans le rendu des oeuvres qu'il interprete .A titre d'exemple
comment ne pas admirer sans réserve son interprétation des 2 concertos pour piano de brahms !!
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In which case I recommend you stop reading, click the "buy" botton, yes, just completely ignore the following - it is strictly for those who, like me, have owned the LPs and every digital incarnation of everything this box contains (with the exception of the Hindemith, which has either never been issued on CD, or that I've missed), and I mean everything from the LPs over Lani Spahr's private remasterings from open reel tapes to the French United Archive and Arkivmusic releases.
Now, weren't we all hoping this set would contain all-new DSD remasterings from the original analogue master tapes? Well, it sure doesn't say so anywhere on or in the box. In fact, it remains unclear which of these remasterings are new (production year as well as copyright is said to be 2013, not that one could deduce much from this), and where they're not, which have been used. The best I can offer are subjective comparisons I made on state-of-the-art equipment (trying to decide which versions to rip and include in my playlists to use at home).
On the whole, the remasterings in this box sound as good or better than prior releases. There are exceptions, however. Ironically, the 2008 Mozart Concerto recordings sound less spatious and realistic, even slightly dull compared to the regular CD - and I would be suprised if this title were remastered at all (more likely a straight digital copy, and indeed, the sonic difference dwindles some once one rips the content of both discs). All the other digital (DDD) recordings are, believe it or not, audibly improved over the original CDs (the left hand solo, chamber and concerto repertoire), something I really did not expect. Most likely thanks to improved noise-shaping software. The differences aren't always slight at all (fascinating, confusing, disturbing - you name it...). Most importantly, however, the Franz Schmidt Quintet now comes without those digital glitches that once almost killed an audiophile transport of mine - the disc quit playing, but wouldn't quit whirring, literally had to pull the plug (mind you, a CD of which I had several copies, all scratch-free, not one playing back properly to the end, got to keep them all for free, nice customer service on Amazon's part, but then, I had to wait until now to be able and listen to the Quintet to the very end...).
The great Grieg and Schumann Concerti, of which the DSD-remastered "Great Performances" CD sounds hard as nails in comparison (frankly, one of the most disappointing modern remasterings of anything), finally have some body and natural harmonics.
All the Beethoven Concerti are clearly remastered and sound better than ever. Having said that, the remasterings of the 3rd and 4th (included here twice) are not identical to the DSD remastering for the "Great Performances" CD, but since there are sonic plusses and minuses to either (there isn't merely greater low-level resolution to the "Great Performances" CD, but one can hear e.g. tape splices - as during, of all places, the first-movement candenza in the 4th - that have always made me wonder if the same analogue source tape was used as for all other releases. If I had to guess, I'd say it's the only release going back to the original analogue master, but that the original may be showing signs of deterioration, and that the others may be based on a production master copy), I'm undecided which remastering I like better, but believe most people will prefer the less revealing but "cleaner" remastering included in the box set here. All in all, the piano sounds so much more full-bodied in either, with much (!) more orchestral detail to be heard than in the cheapo releases and re-issues from the eighties and nineties - even compared to the original LPs (of which I still own a pretty run-down and a virtually pristine set) - that I feel like nit-picking. I mean, finally, they got the transfer of the "Emperor" Concerto right!
The to me all-important Brahms Concerti (how I love those!) sound different from the 1997 20-Bit-SBM remasterings (the Masterworks Heritage double-CD), less low-level resolution and all that comes with it (including less realistic phase response) - keep the old CDs if you own them (and/or audiophile equipement), otherwise nothing worth obsessing over. Ironically, the mono items contained therein (the Brahms Waltzes and Händel Variations) are sonically improved here (sometimes I wonder if there's some sort of troll working at Sony eternally trying to figure out how to sell us each and every scrap of music they've ever recorded or acquired as many times as is (in)humanly possible...).
The Mozart 25th Concerto sounds curiously different from all previous releases. I probably like the remastering included in the DSD-remastered Szell Mozart box set best (yeah, I know, wouldn't we all have bet they're using the same remastering, but no...), but the one included here reveals a Mozartian gracefulness that made me think, in passing, that I was hearing this recording for the first time (and that - probably because of that additional sense of spontaneity - reminded me that I had not listened to Szell's live in Tokyo in 1970 concert for a while).
I'd expected the 1954 Schubert to be the exact same remastering as the United Archives release, and maybe it is and the difference is due to the funny black disc the French use, be that as it may, the recording sounds better (less dry, more luminous, percussive in a more realistic way) here. The 1963 Schubert items sound so different from the earlier CD release, as well as the LP, it's frankly confusing. The A Major Sonata in particular sounds fuller-bodied if a bit wooden, less charming and graceful (Fleisher's take on it admittedly being gloomier than some, e.g. Solomon). I was unhappy with the earlier remastering, but don't find the new one so convincing either, and the sonic difference is such that one wonders what it sounded like in real. The LP probably comes closest to sounding realistic in this particular case (although I've always thought there's a lack of weight there, which they may have been trying to improve via equalization here). The interpretation, of course, is such a fine one.
To end this with, all the items thus far only included (in digital redbook format, that is) in the Philips "Great Pianists of the 20th Century" set or the half dozen Arkivmusic discs (from five years ago) sound better here than ever.
Quite good quality pressings, by the way. Having said that, I'll rip them all and have them read out and clocked by an external studio clock, trying to glean as much information and sonic integrity from these recordings as I can. Would be something to have all this on SACD or better yet, as high-resolution downloads tapped directly from the source. But then, how long have we been waiting for this complete album collection of all the Epic, Columbia and Sony releases? I'd frankly started wondering if I'd live to see/hear it...
Greetings from Switzerland, David.
Releasing low priced boxes of complete recordings by many of the major pianists of the Twentieth Century.
PART ONE: OLD MASTERS
Sergei Rachmaninov was RCA's earliest celebrity: ASIN: Rachmaninoff: His Complete Recordings - or - Complete Recordings
More recently, Sony has issued mega-boxes devoted to Vladimir Horowitz (70 CDs) and Arthur Rubinstein (142 CDs + 2 DVDs)
Vladimir Horowitz: Vladimir Horowitz- The Complete Original Jacket Collection
Arthur Rubinstein: Arthur Rubinstein: The Complete Album Collection
Unfortunately, the Horowitz box appears to be out of print - Look at those prices!
The lesson is - DON'T DELAY if you are interested in any of these Sony boxes.
Let's hope they reissue the Horowitz box soon (this time with an index to the contents of the CDs).
Two other Columbia pianists could be called Old Masters: Sony should think about Rudolf Serkin and Robert Casadesus boxes.
Maybe Alexander Brailowsky, Oscar Levant and Jose Iturbi.
PART TWO: YOUNG GUNS
A cluster of American pianists who started their careers after World War II.
A notoriously unlucky lot; falling victim to early death, physical and mental illnesses.
Before 2013 is over, Sony will have published complete collections devoted to five of them:
4 of the 5 are in the Original Jacket format, with a biographical booklet and sometimes a DVD.
1) Leon Fleisher: 23 CDs
The box under consideration.
An original Jacket collection.
Fleisher was the house pianist at Epic, a subsidiary of Columbia Records.
Epic's house orchestra was the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell.
There are thirteen concerto recordings with Szell in this box.
Fleisher studied under Artur Schnabel, and his repertoire was more Austro-German than the others.
His career came to an abrupt halt in the 1960s, when he developed the nerve disease Dystonia, which prevented him from using his right hand.
Three CDs of the left-hand piano literature are included; pretty much all that there is.
(a surprising number of major composers are represented - only Richard Strauss' two works for piano-left hand and orchestra are missing).
Finally, after years of therapy, he was able to use both hands in a 2009 CD of three Mozart piano concertos.
CDs 1, 2 and 4 are mono recordings, 1954-1956.
CDs 3 and 5-19 are stereo LP recordings, 1956-1963.
The "original jackets" for CDs 3, 6, 8 and 9 indicate that they are mono, but the CDs are stereo. *
The left-handed works on CDs 20-22 were recorded 1991-1993.
The Mozart concertos on CD 23 were recorded in 2008.
Since CDs 20-23 were never released on LP, there are no program notes on the back of their "original jackets".
Approximately half the material is new to CD - especially welcome is the Brahms Quintet with the Julliard Quartet (CD 18).
Aside from the new material, I don't think anything was newly remastered.
I did an A-B comparison of several of them with their previous CD incarnations, and could detect no difference.
Timings are absolutely identical, which is not what you would expect if Sony went back to the analog master tapes.
Quite good sound, nonetheless.
WARNING: This is a LIMITED EDITION (like the Horowitz). Don't Delay.
[hint: for ease of navigation, read the review though to the end, then come back and click on the links.]
2) William Kapell: 11 CDs
His early death in a 1953 plane crash made him a romantic figure.
We'll never know how his talent would have developed.
An eleven CD Kapell box was the first to be published: Complete Recordings 1944-1953: William Kapell
Unfortunately, unlike the other four, this is a bare-bones production with no program notes at all.
A shameful and frustrating decision.
You'd be better off buying the earlier nine-CD incarnation: William Kapell Edition if you can afford it.
plus two CDs of newly discovered material: Kapell Rediscovered
3) Van Cliburn: 28 CDs + 1 DVD
An Original Jacket collection.
The most famous and successful pianist in his class; Cliburn vaulted to fame after winning the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958.
He couldn't handle the fame, and went into early retirement in the 1970s.
Perhaps because of his popularity, the cognoscenti were skeptical about Cliburn's true musical worth, but he seems to have passed the test of time.
Van Cliburn-Complete Album Collection
4) Byron Janis: 11 CDs + 1 DVD
An Original Jacket collection.
Janis' greatest recordings were made for Mercury (now Universal) after he left RCA in 1959.
Nevertheless, his RCA period is worth looking into, especially the concerto recordings with Fritz Reiner and Charles Munch.
In the 1970s, his career was cut short by arthritis. This is documented in the DVD included with the Sony box.
Byron Janis: The Complete Rca Collection
5) Gary Graffman: 24 CDs
An Original Jacket collection.
Graffman started at RCA, then moved to Columbia - he left us concerto recordings with Bernstein, Munch, Ormandy and Szell.
In the 1970s, he lost the use of his right hand due to injury.
Mostly the romantic repertoire, especially Russian.
Gary Graffman The Complete Album Collection
PART THREE: GLENN GOULD
The eccentric Canadian pianist is in a category of his own.
Sony has not issued a complete Gould Edition recently, but they did favor us with The Glenn Gould Bach edition: Glenn Gould: The Complete Bach Collection
38 CDs + 4 DVDs. Copy and paste this stock number in the Amazon Search bar:
Despite allowing the Horowitz box to go out of print, and short-changing the latest version of the Kapell box,
SONY is owed a vote of thanks from piano students, especially the impecunious.
P.S. The year is not over, and I have no inside information,
but is there still room for a Eugene Istomin box, an Andre Watts box (both Columbia artists), or a John Browning box (split between EMI and RCA) ?
* This statement is based on headphone listening. There is a middle of the hall concert perspective with plenty of room ambience:
You're not seated next to the pianist as is the case with some early stereo recordings.
Debussy and Ravel
There are other recordings of Schubert, Brahms, Lizst etc. But the discs of 20th century music are the treasures of this set. The original Epic recordings were in mono and later in stereo. 4 of the 23 discs are of the later Sony recordings. Each mini "LP" album has it's original album art and a hardbound booklet with notes and recording info.
This is a Limited Edition release, so go for it ASAP!
From the beginning, Fleisher had an impressive resume. As a child, Pierre Monteux lauded him as "the pianistic find of the century". Soon thereafter, he began studies with Artur Schnabel - who usually avoided teaching child prodigies. Fleisher emerged as a musician with a similar sensibility to his teacher: faithful to the composer's text; technique solely at the service of the music; a repertoire that embraced the classics from Mozart to Schubert and dipped into the Romantics/Impressionists only slightly. But there were differences as well. Fleisher also played 20th Century repertoire - particularly American composers who Schnabel would have never touched. Fleisher was far more secure technically than his teacher. His playing was metrically straighter than Schnabel's, who couldn't help being born in the freer 19th Century; and Fleisher didn't have that individualized sound that Schnabel, like all Letschetizky pupils, possessed.
Fleisher's debut recording was Schubert's B-flat Sonata and some dances. In the Sonata, the pianist eschews the first movement repeat and there is an overall lack of atmosphere, poetry, or mystery. Fleisher plays all the notes, but there's little sense of what's going on behind them. The pianist returned to the B-flat Sonata (with repeat) for Vanguard in 2004 and I recommend that recording without reservation. Fleisher's last recording before his retirement included a stunning Wanderer Fantasy, delivered with structural continuity, honesty of technique, and aplomb - although there's a painfully obvious splice a few seconds toward the end. The Op. 120 Sonata flows with an unforced lyricism in the first two movements, transitioning to a playful finale.
Fleisher successfully captures the contrasting moods of Brahms' Handel Variations: from the rather academic presentation of the theme, to the variations which are by turns jocular, mysterious, majestic, virtuosic, and reflective, all leading to a marvelously presented fugue. Likewise, each of the 16 waltzes is given its own individual mood.
In Debussy's Suite Bergamasque, Fleisher does not go for the "hammerless piano" approach championed by Gieseking: every note is firmly on the ground. While the clarity and rhythmic vivacity in the Prelude is appreciated, the lack of color drains the other movements of their charm: You'll never hear a drier Claire de Lune than here. Fleisher is more successful in Ravel's Sonatine and Valses - although Rubinstein really owned the latter. In the end, these are serviceable rather than distinguished readings. The high point of this disc is Ravel's Alborada del gracioso, where Fleisher perfectly captures the meld of the Spanish idiom with the French composer.
Fleisher keeps Liszt's B minor Sonata moving, giving even the slower sections a sense of momentum - and the entire piece has a dramatic through line. I've never been able to get into Weber's Sonata and that didn't change with this recording. Fleisher's performance of Invitation to the Dance brings back memories of Schnabel's recording of that piece, although Fleisher's clarity in several of the parallel runs goes beyond what his teacher achieved.
American piano music: Copland's sole Piano Sonata is given a searching, searing reading - the rather brightly voiced piano suits the starkness of the piece. Rorem's Three Barcarolles, works which deserve to be heard more often, are played with untrammeled lyricism, even in the lively final work. The remaining pieces were, frankly, less interesting - works by composers riding contemporaneous trends rather than genuine composing (the Kirchner Sonata, in particular, sounds like warmed over Messiaen).
For many, the highlight of this set will be Fleisher's collaboration with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra - Fleisher's exclusive orchestral recording partner until his hand troubles. Fleisher's crisp, no-nonsense phrasing works well with Szell's whip-cracking intensity, even in music where one wouldn't expect them to excel - like Rachmaninoff's Paganini Rhapsody. This is a performance of which the composer (who eschewed sentimentality in his own performances) would have approved. The Franck Symphonic Variations gets off to a measured start and only catches fire in the last few minutes.
One certainly can't say Mozart's Concerto 25 is lacking in fire, even though it's in the benign key of C major. Szell starts the first movement in crisply articulated style, with a brisk tempo, and Fleisher carries the piano part with subtle pedaling and astutely-judged dynamics. The songful andante features glowing woodwinds, while the finale is graceful whirl and dash. (Fleisher himself conducts the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra in three Mozart concertos on the final disc of this set, recorded in 2008. The performances are relaxed and autumnal; any doubts as to Fleisher's recovery fade upon hearing the clear and articulate right hand passagework.) In keeping with the custom of his generation, Fleisher does not embellish the rather bare bones piano part in the slow movements.
Fleisher and Szell initially recorded Beethoven's G major Concerto (coupled with Mozart's Concerto 25), and only wound up recording the whole cycle after a casual suggestion by the recording producer, Howard Scott. We owe Mr. Scott a big round of applause, as this possibly the finest Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle by an American pianist, orchestra, and conductor (Szell took United States citizenship in 1946). The G major has just the right balance of lyricism, pathos (in the central movement) and sparkle. Fleisher's playing in the two early concertos serves as a reminder that Beethoven initially conquered Vienna as a virtuoso pianist, not a composer - the way he tears through the cadenza in the opening movement of Concerto 1 is beyond brilliant. Szell matches Fleisher bar-for-bar with tightly coiled conducting, except in the middle movements which are expansive without lapsing into sogginess. That's also largely true of the C minor concerto, which is played through a classicist's prism. The Emperor Concerto is largely devoid of the pomp usually heard; this monarch is lean and lithe, wearing his imperial garb lightly. Mutuality is everywhere evident in this cycle.
The Brahms D minor Concerto is given a propulsive, dynamic performance that reminds the listener that the composer was a young man when this was written. Fleisher's playing is vibrant without being forced, while Szell manages to make the rather muddy orchestration sound lean and clear. The B-flat Concerto is exceptionally detailed, helped by Fleisher's sparing use of the sustaining pedal. Jules Eskin's cello solo in the slow movement is beyond beautiful, and integrally balanced with the accompaniment. By and large, these are my favorite stereo Brahms concertos, although I wouldn't want to be without Rubinstein/Reiner in the D minor.
One wouldn't normally associate the Fleisher/Szell partnership with Grieg and Schumann, but the popular coupling of A minor Concertos are presented with freshness, crisp attacks in the faster sections, and relaxed, unforced poetry in the slow movements.
Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes, with Rudolf Serkin on the other piano, are given a reflective, flexible rendition. Fleisher and the Juilliard String Quartet are seamlessly integrated in the F minor Quintet - this is chamber playing at its finest.
Left Hand works: It has been said that art thrives on limitations, and this may be the case with Fleisher. For one thing, he was compelled to explore repertoire he might have otherwise ignored, such as Godowsky and Saint-Saëns. The various left-hand performances here are freer, more interesting, and have a greater variety of tonal color (although that may be, in part, a result of recording technology). Further, despite using only one hand, the dynamics are multi-layered in a way lacking in the earlier recordings. The separation of voices as heard in the solo album (particularly in the two Scriabin works) is astonishing. Whatever the repertoire, Fleisher remains a solid musician, and his Ravel concerto (normally a showpiece for pianists to demonstrate their left hand technique) has a sense of structural solidity that makes the performance all the more exciting. Ozawa and the Boston Symphony furnish an able accompaniment here and in the Prokofiev and Britten works.
This 23CD set contains all of Fleisher's recordings for Columbia/Epic and Sony. He made a few recordings for Vanguard which are not included: Two Hands, and The Journey; collectors should seek these out. This box is presented in the original album format, which means most of the discs have short playing times, but the sequencing of the works is as originally intended by the performer. The front and back covers are reproduced, so with a magnifying glass, the original liner notes can be read - but the last four albums did not have liner notes on the back cover.