The Essential Leon Fleisher Highlights Classic Recordings of the Great American Pianist on the Eve of His 80th Birthday Year

Fleisher Awarded 2007 Kennedy Center Honor On December 2

Presentation To Be Broadcast December 26 On CBS

Special Digital-Only Edition Of The Essential Leon Fleisher With Bonus Tracks Never Before On CD Available From Masterworks On December 11

CD Released January 15, 2008


As the American pianist Leon Fleisher accepts the 2007 Kennedy Center Honor and prepares for a year of celebrations of his 80th birthday, Sony BMG Masterworks announces the release of The Essential Leon Fleisher, a commemorative anthology that features highlights from his greatest recordings. A special digital-only edition, with exclusive bonus tracks, will be available December 11 on iTunes, and the 2-CD set will be in stores on January 15, 2008.

The digital-only edition of The Essential Leon Fleisher will feature the first-ever release on CD of the pianist's 1963 recording with the Juilliard String Quartet of the Brahms Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34, as well as his long-unavailable recording of the piano transcription of Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." Both the CD and digital editions will include another first for the digital era -- the opening movement (Molto moderato) of the Schubert Sonata in B-Flat Major, D.960, from Fleisher's first recording for Columbia Masterworks in 1954. The CD version also will offer the Scherzo movement from the Brahms Piano Quintet.

Acclaimed from his youth as one of the most remarkable pianists of his time -- the legendary conductor Pierre Monteux hailed him, when he was only 15, as "the pianistic find of the century" -- Leon Fleisher was a student of Artur Schnabel and made his New York Philharmonic debut in 1944, when he was only 16. In 1952, he became the first American to win Belgium's prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition. Fleisher went on to build a distinguished solo career in the 1950s and 1960s, when he recorded exclusively for Columbia Masterworks on the Epic label. His concerto recordings with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra set standards that are unsurpassed, and his solo recordings reflect a virtuosity that is as adventurous as it is discriminating.

Fleisher's career took a dramatically different turn in 1965, when at the age of 37 two fingers of his right hand were disabled as the result of a neurological affliction known as focal dystonia. He then began to devote himself to performing the fascinating body of music written for piano left hand, and to conducting and teaching. In recent years, however, new forms of treatment and therapy have restored Fleisher's use of his right hand, and he has been able to resume playing with both hands.

The extraordinary renaissance of Fleisher's career has been documented in his first two-hand recordings in some forty years, as well as an Oscar- nominated documentary short by filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn. This year also saw the release of a new recording of the Brahms Piano Quintet with the Emerson Quartet, some 44 years after the recording of the same work that appears on The Essential Leon Fleisher.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who leads the guest presenters for Fleisher's Kennedy Center Honor, recently named the first movement of the pianist's recording of the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 as one of his top five favorite recordings. "This is such a virile and full-blooded performance," Ma says. "Leon Fleisher plays the second theme of the first movement with a classical rhythmic groove that I've never heard from anyone else."

In addition to the works listed above, that movement is included on The Essential Leon Fleisher, along with select movements of Fleisher's recordings of the Beethoven Emperor Concerto, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25 and the Grieg Piano Concerto, as well as a complete performance of the Ravel Concerto for the Left Hand. Also featured are two works for piano left hand -- the Brahms transcription of the Bach Chaconne and the "Groteske" movement from Korngold's Suite for Two Violins, Cello and Piano Left Hand -- and Ravel's Alborado del gracioso.

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  The Essential Leon Fleisher -- Tracklisting

  1.  Beethoven:  Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 "Emperor"
      The Cleveland Orchestra -- George Szell

  2.  Bach:  Partita No. 2 in D Minor for Solo Violin, BWV 1004
      (arr. Johannes Brahms)

  3.  Brahms:  Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34
      I. Allegro non troppo *
      II. Andante, un poco adagio *
      III. Scherzo (Allegro) - Trio
      IV. Finale (Poco sostenuto) - Allegro non troppo -
      (Presto, non troppo) *
      Juilliard String Quartet

  4.  Schubert:  Sonata for Piano in B-flat Major, Op. post. (D. 960)
      I. Molto moderato

  5.  Mozart:  Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503
      III. Allegretto
      The Cleveland Orchestra -- George Szell

  6.  Brahms:  Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15
      I. Maestoso
      The Cleveland Orchestra -- George Szell

  7.  Grieg:  Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16
      II. Adagio
      The Cleveland Orchestra -- George Szell

  8.  Korngold:  Suite for Two Violins, Cello and Piano Left Hand, Op. 23
      III. Groteske. Moglich rasch
      Jaime Laredo, violin -- Joseph Silverstein, violin -- Yo-Yo Ma, cello

  9.  Ravel:  Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major
      Boston Symphony Orchestra -- Seiji Ozawa

  10.  Ravel:  Alborada del gracioso

  11.  Bach:  Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring *

  * iTunes exclusive

SOURCE: Sony BMG Masterworks

CONTACT: United States, Susan Schiffer, +1-212-833-4763,, or International, Silke Zimmermann,
+49-89-41369646,, both of Sony BMG Masterworks

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