Boxed Set Reviews
Classical Source (on Leslie Howard's latest Wigmore Hall recital)
This has been another busy season for pianist Leslie Howard. Tours on five continents in recent years have seen him enthralling audiences with his customarily adventurous repertoire.
A citizen both of Britain and Australia, Leslie Howard has accomplished a feat unequalled by any solo artist in recording history – his 99-CD survey for Hyperion of the complete piano music of Franz Liszt, including all 17 works for piano and orchestra. Accomplished within 14 years, it encompasses more than 300 world premières, with many works prepared from Liszt’s unpublished manuscripts and works unheard since Liszt’s lifetime. This critically acclaimed project merited Leslie Howard’s entry in the Guinness Book of World Records, six Grands Prix du Disque, the Medal of St Stephen, the Pro Cultura Hungarica award and a mounted bronze cast of Liszt’s hand presented by the Hungarian President. During the Liszt bicentenary year – 2011, Leslie Howard travelled the world with seven different all-Liszt recital programmes, maintaining at the same time a broad repertoire of concertos and chamber-music, and a quantity of solo music by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, Rakhmaninov and Rubinstein.
Leslie Howard has appeared internationally with the world’s finest orchestras, including the London
Symphony, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, English Northern
Philharmonia, RTE National Symphony of Dublin, Hanover Band, Utah Symphony, Maryland Symphony, Mexico
Philharmonic, Orchestra della Scala, Budapest Philharmonic, Budapest Symphony, and the orchestras of
Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Queensland and Tasmania in Australia.|
His 130-CD discography contains many other important world première recordings, including the four piano
sonatas of Anton Rubinstein, the three piano sonatas of Tchaikovsky and a disc of Scandinavian piano
sonatas. In 2011 Leslie Howard released four new CDs: Liszt New Discoveries 3 – a 2-CD set of world
première recordings for Hyperion; 25 Etudes in Black and White – his own compositions recorded for
ArtCorp; and, most recently, a disc pairing the two Rakhmaninov piano sonatas for Melba Recordings.
In addition, he has produced an Urtext edition of the Liszt sonata for Edition Peters and a new
reconstruction and orchestration of Paganini’s fifth violin concerto for the collected Paganini Edition.|
In January 2011, Hyperion Records released a 99 CD boxed set of Leslie Howard’s complete Liszt recordings, which has proved an enormous success: 'Almost any way you choose to look at it, this is a staggering achievement.’ Diapason d’Or
Some more reviews:
Leslie Howard espouses the first version of 1913 on this disc and he does so with terrific panache in Rachmaninov’s bold, texturally intricate writing, allied to a very sensitive awareness of the rich, varied palette of keyboard colour..... this coupling of the two sonatas is a highly desirable acquisition.
Geoffrey Norris, The Gramophone 2011
(On Leslie Howard's complete Liszt cycle.) When virtuoso pyrotechnics are demanded Howard rises to the occasion with consummate ease. He avoids imposing his own personality on the music but presents interpretations that allow the music to speak for itself. Most of the items presented here are intimate in character, revealing the pianist to be, first and foremost, a poet of the piano. One marvels at his exquisite phrasing, textural balance and subtle pedaling as well as his innate judgement of tempo.
Brian Davidson, International Piano, 2011
The prize for the performance of the year should surely be awarded to Leslie Howard for his playing of Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata Opus 106 at the Wigmore Hall on November 8. Intellectually, physically, virtuosically and emotionally this was a towering performance...; very few pianists can achieve the perfection that Howard exposed for us.. Leslie Howard is an amazing performer.
John Amis, Musical Opinion 2010
Even though one expects an extraordinary evening from a world class virtuoso such as Leslie Howard, it is still an uplifting and surprising delight to experience the fact. Such was the sensation at his recital on March 25 to a capacity audience at St Peter’s Eaton Square, part of a new series. … Most impressive were Howard’s dramatic transformations of mood in each piece, from silences and fragmentary gestures, through bold bass rumbles, glistening high octave melodies suspended over pulsating chords, opening vistas like crevices in a rockface, leading through ravines to radiant outpourings. ….. More astonishing pianism followed in Tchaikovsky’s seldom played Grande Sonate, the symphonic grandeur of which Leslie Howard projected with orchestral richness, the fanfares of the opening movement and their delicate contrasting subjects developed into a massive climax.
Malcolm Miller, Musical Opinion 2010
Howard produced ravishing orchestral colours, leading us on inspiring musical journeys.
Classical Source March 2010
Howard’s was a performance of stunning intensity, as might be expected from the undisputed master of this repertoire.
Peter Burdon - Adelaide Advertiser, July 2009
It was a measure of the compelling nature of Leslie Howard’s artistry that a large audience was drawn to Wigmore Hall, and made up of many distinguished musicians and pianists from amongst the cognoscenti, attracted by the prospect of great pianism allied to musicianship that was as breathtaking in its virtuosity as it was revelatory in its grasp of the music….. For examples, ‘Paysage’ and ‘Mazeppa’ – the latter demanding the most comprehensive of virtuoso techniques – were outstandingly well played to a level that one would be hard pressed to name another pianist who could equal, let along surpass, Howard’s playing throughout on this occasion. This was comprehensively flawless pianism from a true master of the instrument. More than mere virtuosity, this seemed to recreate the very inspiration that originally brought this music into being.
Robert Matthew-Walker Classical Source 2008