WORKS: Piano Works for the Left Hand
PERFORMER: Leon Fleisher (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 48081 DDD
The American virtuoso Leon Fleisher lost the use of his right hand in 1965, gradually learned the left-hand repertory (bigger than you might think), took up conducting, and regained the use of his hand after an operation in 1981. He recorded this disc two years ago. The Toccata and Fugue by Jenö Takács (born 1902) is decent, worthy stuff, and the Six Studies find Saint-Saëns in an academic frame of mind, though the keyboard layout is as ingenious as you might expect of a composer who was a pianistic prodigy.
The ingenuity of Saxton’s Chacony is a bit obvious in the way high and low registers are negotiated. Brahms’s transcription of the Bach Chaconne for solo violin offers a telling correspondence to the restrictions of the original medium. But not until the late Romantic warhorses – Blumenfeld, Scriabin and Godowsky – does Fleisher fully reveal his considerable strengths, though occasionally his articulation is uneven. The piano, though recorded with clarity and depth, seems a bit clangy. Adrian Jack