Kurt LEIMER (1920-1972)
Piano Concerto No.2 (Music for Piano and Orchestra) (1944-48) [20:14] Ļ
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, Op.30 (1909) [35:57]
Prelude in G minor, Op.23 No.5 (1901) [3:52]
Kurt Leimer (piano)
Orchestra della Radio della Svizzera Italiana/Leopold Stokowski Ļ
Nuremburg Symphony Orchestra/Zsolt Deaky
rec. 1961, Nuremburg (Rachmaninov Concerto); 1960s (Prelude); August 1968, Lugano (Leimer)
Increasing familiarity with pianist and composer Kurt Leimer should lead one to expect the unexpected, not least from Colosseum Classics, the label that has assiduously promoted his recordings on CD. Its latest disc couples two concertos in a conjunction that tells us much, and often humorously, about Leimerís stylistic affiliations. To add spice, Leimerís Piano Concerto No.2, played by the composer, is conducted by none other than Leopold Stokowski. If only he had done the honours for Leimer in Rachmaninovís Third Concerto.
Leimerís concerto is, indeed, as the notes suggest, a homage to the works of the composers he performed as a soloist. Stern critics might anticipate pastiche, or worse. In fact Leimer cannily manages to avoid this trap and clearly Stokowski must have been attracted by the work, and presumably also Leimerís personality, so readily to have agreed to perform it in Lugano in 1968. I canít find much evidence of how they met, and the extent of their collaboration, but itís certainly one of Stokowskiís more interesting excursions in the last decade or so of his life.
Leimer had something of a bravura cheek. The references to Rachmaninov are pretty blatant, but fortunately his themes have the life and lift to support them. Orchestration is not outlandish, and not too lush. Ghostly late Romanticism floods the central movement, and so does a hint or two of Prokofiev, amidst a ghostly waltz section. The finale again hints at Prokofiev as well as Leimerís beloved Gershwin: pyrotechnics with a degree of pastiche Weimar here. The Rachmaninovian affiliations get more and more striking as the finale develops and Stokowski, one of the elite conductors of that repertoire, must have enjoyed them heartily.
To cement these affiliations Leimer plays the Prelude in G minor, one of his concert warhorses and then launches into the Third Concerto accompanied by the Nuremburg Symphony Orchestra under Zsolt DeŠky. This was the same orchestra that recorded Elly Neyís last concerto recordings for Colosseum a few years later. DeŠky was a Hungarian conductor who was doing a lot of concerto accompanying on disc for smaller labels at this time. Leimer certainly shows both assured technique and real affinity for Rachmaninovís musical language, as one might have anticipated. The orchestra is subdued in the balance and lacks alluring tone but the main focus of interest is on the pianist, who performs the cut-down version of the concerto.
I donít know what sort of reception a disc like this will receive. Stokowski collectors will be intrigued by the Leimer Concerto. The scrawny recording of the Rachmaninov rather rules it out of any popularity stakes. Certainly admirers of this intriguing pianist-composer will be delighted to make its acquaintance.
Jonathan Woolf

We have learned from Edward Johnson that this CD release was in fact the soundtrack of a Swiss-Italian Television studio concert and is now available on Youtube.

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