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Leon Fleisher and Friends, a 90th Birthday Celebration, at Zankel Hall

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Carnegie Hall
Leon Fleisher and Friends
A 90th Birthday Celebration

Jonathan Biss, Piano
Yefim Bronfman, Piano
Leon Fleisher, Piano
Dover Quartet:
(Joel Link, Violin, Bryan Lee, Violin
Milena Pajaro-van der Stadt, Viola,
Camden Shaw, Cello)
Rachel Calin, Bass

Zankel Hall
at Carnegie Hall

Press: Emily R. Walsh, Asst., Public Relations

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 5, 2019

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): “Sheep may safely graze” from Cantata No. 208; Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827): Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109; Leon Kirchner (1919-2009): L.H. for Piano Left Hand; Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): “Allegro non troppo” from Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34; Leon Kirchner: Interlude II; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, K. 414.

It was thrilling to see Leon Fleisher, at his Zankel Hall 90th birthday celebration, performing with strength and resilience. After this stunning pianist remarkably overcame a left hand injury, decades ago, Mr. Fleisher returned to standard two-hand piano repertoire. Tonight, at 90, surrounded by accomplished students, friends, family, and a warm, vibrant series of birthday wishes, by video projection, Mr. Fleisher entertained the Zankel audience with compelling authority and devotion. His first work, Bach’s “Sheep may safely graze” from Cantata No. 208, arranged by Egon Petri, was elegant and unhurried. Next, a protégé, the renowned Jonathan Biss, performed Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109. This was a reverent, studied interpretation, technically astute, but cautiously presented. The central movement, “Prestissimo”, was more engaging than the first, “Vivace – ma non troppo – Adagio espressivo”, or the third, “Gesangvoli…”.

Mr. Fleisher’s next solo, Kirchner’s L.H. for Piano Left Hand, left the audience breathless in awe. A contemporary work, 1995, the dissonance was fluidly impassioned and refined. Mr. Fleisher basked in the spotlight with grace, humility, and gratitude. When the Dover Quartet (Joel Link and Bryan Lee, violins, Milena Pajaro-van der Stadt, viola, and Camden Shaw, cello, along with Rachel Calin, bass) were joined by another of Mr. Fleisher’s protégés, Yefim Bronfman, who has received rave reviews on these pages, they performed the “Allegro non troppo” from one of my longtime, favorite chamber pieces, Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F Minor. If only they had performed the entire Quintet, not heard enough these days. We were all transfixed in the moment, with Mr. Bronfman’s glistening tribute to Mr. Fleisher’s teaching career, and the Dover Quartet and Ms. Calin’s enthused, melodic interpretation of this joyous excerpt of such a fully satisfying work by Brahms.

After intermission, Mr. Biss returned to the stage for a more poignant, profound performance, in Kirchner’s Interlude II. Mr. Biss played with refined, introspective tonality. For tonight’s final work, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, K. 414, Mr. Fleisher joined the Dover Quartet and Ms. Calin on bass. Divided into three movements, “Allegro”, “Andante”, and “Rondeau: Allegretto”, this Concerto, composed for orchestra and piano, was sophisticated and sublime, in its chamber arrangement. Mozart originally created this first of 17 concertos in 1782 for his Vienna audiences. Tonight, Leon Fleisher’s 2019 New York audience loved the concerto in its fresh, unique arrangement, and the accolades lasted endlessly. The video tributes included birthday speeches and comments from Mr. Fleisher’s grandchildren, as well as from friends, Gary Graffman, Richard Goode, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Kudos to Leon Fleisher, and Happy Birthday.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at