Kirjoitan blogissani mietteitä monenmoisista asioista. Epäilemättä musiikki on tärkeässä osassa, mutta tuskinpa huomioimatta jäävät purjelaivojen pienoismallit, pihakottaraisen pesäpuuhat tai huristelut Keltaisella Kaunottarella. Saattaapa olla tarve kirjoittaa jostakin ajankohtaisesta asiastakin. Ja tietysti lupaan olla ahkera, ettei tulisi mahdottomia taukoja....


I was happy that Mr. Matthew-Walker (CRQ Autumn 2012) gave, in his review of a bit strangely named DGs box set ”Liszt Legacy”, full credentials to Raymond Lewenthal, while another critic in another journal called him only ”a good pianist” comparing to the others in box set. Having said that, I must admit that Lewenthal is in a tough competition as he is in the company of Alicia de Larrocha, Egon Petri, Claudio Arrau and Benno Moiseiwitsch. And maybe these Lewenthal´s performances – lot´s of Scriabin + mainly encore pieces by different composers – do not give the best overall picture of his art. You´d better go for his Charles-Valentin Alkan (RCA LSC-2815 / Elan 82276, rec. 1965 & Columbia M 30234 / Elan 82284, rec. 1970). Here you will find him playing music he promoted and lived with for many years. In Alkan recordings he mostly plays with a beautiful sound, natural phrasing and, even in the technically most demanding pieces, he is not aiming at an almost ice cold brilliance like some of his more well known “Horowitzian” contemporary American pianists. And you really should hear a hilarious performance of Marcia funebre sulla morte d´un pappagallo.  


But there are problems, too. Even if the pieces were taped on the same recording sessions, some compositions are played brilliantly and beautifully while others are “dim” in both senses. One critic has called Lewenthal´s phrasing “angular” and that he is not catching the softer side of the music. I find his playing sometimes strangely uninvolving (especially in voicing and phrasing), which is pretty strange thinking that recording sessions for RCA and Columbia must have been a big chance for him. But maybe things were already going wrong: He was in bad terms with agents and record companies in 1970 (as Mr. Fahran Malik tells in his excellent article on Lewenthal, IPQ Winter 2000) and made few recordings after Columbia sessions. His recording career was over in 1975 when he was just over fifty.


I have heard a handful of live recordings from the sixties in a fairly good sound. I hope that I shall see the day when they or at least a selection of them will be commercially released as they would considerably expand our views (at least ours, who never heard him “live”) on Lewenthal both in repertoire and as an artist. There are many items to be treasured. Just one example: In a concert from New York in 1969 Lewenthal plays the whole Book I of Liszt´s Années de pelerinage, some pieces by Alkan and two opera fantasies by Thalberg. The whole concert is terrific and it ends with a hair-raising encore; Lewenthal´s own Concert paraphrase on the Dance of the Russian Sailors from Glière´s ballet “The Red Poppy”.


Lewenthal actually made a studio recording of complete Années for RCA but it was never released. Now it seems impossible to be released as it was recorded with a new, short lived tape recorder model that doesn´t exist anymore. Mr. Malik writes that there are dozens of Lewenthal´s concert recordings at the archives of International Piano Library at Maryland – total 11 boxes of tapes, informs the web site of University of Maryland.  Any hope to hear the best of them?


I doubt if Mr. Lewenthal will ever be “everybody´s” pianist, partly because he recorded quite a small amount of mainstream repertoire and partly because his recorded output is uneven. But when in the right mood he definitely was among the best American born pianists of twentieth century, together with Julius Katchen, William Kapell and young Van Cliburn. And what phenomena they were!




14.11.2017 Concert at the Mariinsky Concert Hall

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1.4.2016 New CD released: J.S. Bach. Organ Works Vol. 1

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25.4.2015 Concerts in Japan in May

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28.11. 2015. Jaakko Ryhänen ja Ville YLE TV 1:n Aamu-TV:ssä

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YL:n ensimmäiset joulukonsertit Helsingin Kallion kirkossa 7.12. klo 17.30 ja 20.00.

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