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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars jumbo box of estimable performances, 15 Jun 2013
By 
Ivor E. Zetler (Sydney Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Leon Fleisher Complete Album Collection [Box Set, Limited Edition] (Audio CD)
Leon Fleisher (born 1928) had a stellar pianistic career until 1960 when he suffered a debilitating disability of his right hand. In later years he played piano compositions for the left hand and more recently has resumed performing with both hands. This 23 CD set presents all the recordings he made for the Columbia / Sony label.

The compositions presented consists mainly of the standard piano concert repertoire
plus various rarities (often for the left hand) by composers such as Korngold, Prokofiev, Hindemith, Carter etc. The concerti are mainly accompanied by George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra.

While it is impractical to review each individual performance in such a large set, my general impression is that the quality of Fleisher's pianism is invariably consistently excellent. While the dedicated listener would be able to identify other recordings that would be superior, there was nothing in this set that I would consider a dud. The Brahms and Beethoven concerti are renowned and well known. The only caveat in these works would be the slightly sub par recording quality of the fifties recorded sound. Interestingly, it was the Rachmaninov Paganini Rhapsody that proved to to be the most outstanding performance to my ears. Here Fleisher's steely technique is magisterially displayed. In the Schubert sonatas there is abundant evidence that this pianist can perform more subtle and sensitive music equally well.

The presentation of this set is impressive. A sturdy container will take up a reasonably large amount of shelf space - particularly in height. Each CD is enclosed in a cardboard sleeve with the original artwork. "Stereorama" and "Epic" are often the charming retro label names. The sound quality is generally quite satisfactory given that many of the recordings emanate from the fifties. Enthusiasts of fine pianism will find much to enjoy in this jumbo set. Warmly recommended.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2013 has been a good year for American pianists., 4 Jun 2013
By 
John Fowler (urbana, illinois) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Leon Fleisher Complete Album Collection [Box Set, Limited Edition] (Audio CD)
SONY, crypt-keeper of American Columbia and RCA Records, has been going out of its way to be nice to pianophiles:
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: Rachmaninoff: The Complete Recordings - or - Rachmaninov: The 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 - 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.
Nice house.

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.

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
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 [Box Set]

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:
ASIN: B0086WQNZ0

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) ?
Who knows?

* 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.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A celebration, 16 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Leon Fleisher Complete Album Collection [Box Set, Limited Edition] (Audio CD)
At a reasonable price this puts Fleisher back on the map as a considerable pianist, particularly in Mozart and Beethoven. In addition you get some unusual repertoire for the left hand alone as a result of the disability he suffered in the middle of his career. I suggest you snap it up while it's around - these limited editions don't last forever.
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