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Leon Fleisher | Katherine Jacobson - Four Hands / The Arts Desk

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Leon Fleisher's stellar early career floundered in 1964 when focal dystonia cost him the use of his right hand. He became a specialist in left-handed repertoire, until medical treatment in the mid-1990s enabled him to resume a full career. Fleisher's 2004 comeback album Two Hands has just been reissued by Sony, along with this new piano duet recital where he's partnered by his wife Katherine Jacobson. Four Hands is a feelgood disc, but one where no allowances need to be made for the playing; these performances are as sharp, as colourful as any you'll find. I keep returning to a superb transcription of La Valse, made by Ravel's friend and sometime editor Lucien Garban. It's drier and more focused than the orchestral original, and more terrifying too. Those metallic rumblings at the start are uniquely ominous. Ravel's savage final minutes are phenomenal, suggesting another famous ballet score ending in a dance of death.

Also dark, but not despairing, is Schubert's F minor Fantasia. The first section is matchless; Fleisher and Jacobson's supernatural dynamic control always at the music's service. It never gets mushy; bass lines are as clear as day when required, and Fleisher's upper register shimmers. And what a close; the resigned fade into the minor packing a real punch.

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