Leon Fleisher – All the Things You Are (CD Review)

Leon Fleisher

All the Things You Are

Bridge Records CD 9429


At 85, pianist Leon Fleisher remains as compelling a musician as ever. Since the mid-1960s, due to battling an affliction called focal dystonia that affected two fingers on his right hand, Fleisher is best known for championing repertoire for the left hand alone. Thanks to advances in medical technology, in recent years he has sometimes returned to playing two-handed repertoire. But on his latest CD for Bridge Records, Fleisher presents a recital program that predominantly features left-handed pieces.


Brahms’s transcription of the Chaconne from Bach’s Violin Partita in D minor has become a centerpiece of Fleisher’s live appearances; it is rendered here with nuance, suppleness, and exquisite shaping of the composition’s large-scale architecture. Musical Offerings, three pieces written by George Perle to commemorate Fleisher’s 70th birthday, are excellent examples of the composer’s Bergian harmonic language and angular gestural palette. Quite rangy, they are never registrally confined, as pieces for left hand could tend to be. Inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poem Wild Nights and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem Renascence, LH, written by Leon Kirchner for Fleisher, is a beautiful chromatic essay, at turns tumultuous and lushly hued. Dina Koston’s Thoughts of Evelyn, the sole two-handed work on the CD, pits rampant arpeggiations against short melodic fragments, building intricate textures and intriguing harmonies out of this deliberately limited set of materials. Federico Mompou’s Prelude No. 6 meanders a bit in places, but also features rapturous moments filled with arcing melodies and luxuriant Neo-romantic harmonies.


The CD also contains two transcriptions of show tunes. Earl Wild’s rendition of George Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” is hyper-romantic and another example of a left-handed piece that makes full use of the piano’s compass to stirring effect. Fleisher’s ability to separate out the various voices into melodic and accompanimental gestures really makes it ‘sing.’ The CD’s title work, a famous song by Jerome Kern, is supplied a poignant arrangement by Stephen Prutsman. Fleisher plays it molto legato, employing a decent helping of rubato, but never allowing the song to seem cloying. It serves as an affectionately rendered and eloquent closer.

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