Collective Listening Project

Honoring Pianist Leon Fleisher

Playlist No. 23

About the Playlist

August 6, 2020
Podcast Cover Image

As we struggled this week to work remotely, many of us without power or an internet connection thanks to Storm Isaias, it was a great comfort to listen to the extraordinary outpouring of recordings by pianist Leon Fleisher. The world lost Leon Fleisher this week at age 92. But we are left with a treasure trove of recordings that mark a brilliant career spanning more than half a century. This week’s playlist remembers his artistry, in particular his collaboration with The Cleveland Orchestra and conductor George Szell, which resulted in many iconic recordings. In the latter part of his career he struggled with injury, losing use of his right hand. During that time, he pioneered new works for left hand and then later made a triumphant comeback. He made his PUC debut in 1962 at the height of his career with a recital focusing on Schubert, Bach, and the music of Leon Kirchner, one of many composers he championed throughout his career. Schubert’s B-flat Major sonata, included on our playlist, was one of the pieces on his PUC debut recital.

Leon Fleisher was a wonderful man, a consummate musician, and a cherished pedagogue. I was lucky enough to work with him a few times. In 2001, I presented him with the Borromeo String Quartet in Chicago shortly after he returned to stage playing with both hands. I will never forget the life and character he infused into the Brahms Piano Quintet, especially remarkable for someone who had spent years without the use of one hand. When I drove him to the airport after his performance and lugged his suitcase out of my trunk, I joked with friends that I would never wash my hands again having touched something of his (that joke surely wouldn’t work today!). It is a musical memory that I treasure. It was fun to dig out the photo (above) that he signed for me and share it. I hope you will get some of the same pleasure out of listening to a sample of his work. Enjoy!

Marna Seltzer, Director of Princeton University Concerts


WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Allegretto from Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503
with The Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell, Conductor

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Allegro moderato from Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 (1959-61)
with The Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell, Conductor

JOHANNES BRAHMS Allegro non troppo from Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83 (1962)
with The Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell, Conductor

JOHANNES BRAHMS 5 Studies for Piano, No. 5 on Bach Chaconne

FRANZ SCHUBERT Molto moderato from Sonata in B-flat Major, D. 960, Op. Posth. (1956)

JOHANNES BRAHMS Finale from Quintet for Piano and Strings in F Minor, Op. 34 (1963)
with the Juilliard String Quartet