Leonard Pennario: Complete RCA Album Collection

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“Nobody plays the piano better than Leonard Pennario,” wrote the eminent critic Andrew Porter in London’s New Statesman in 1952, when the competition would have included none less than Horowitz in his prime. That year, Pennario began recording for Capitol Records in Los Angeles, and a decade later he moved to RCA Victor, for which label he made a series of distinguished albums. To mark the tenth anniversary of Pennario’s death, Sony Classical is now pleased to reissue all of the pianist’s RCA recordings together for the first time in a single box.

Born in 1924 in Buffalo, New York, Pennario gave his first public performance there at the age of seven, later moving with his family to Los Angeles, where his teachers included the legendary Isabella Vengerova. His breakthrough came in 1936, when he made his orchestral debut deputizing for an indisposed soloist with the Dallas Symphony. On that memorable occasion, the twelve-year-old performed the Grieg Piano Concerto, a work he had never heard, let alone played, until a few days earlier.

Dazzling concertos would, of course, feature prominently in Pennario’s discography, and his first RCA Victor releases in 1964 included Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and the Franck Symphonic Variations with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops (High Fidelity: “immense dexterity and bravura”) and the two Liszt concertos with René Leibowitz conducting the London Symphony (Gramophone: “magisterial accounts of both works … it is a constant delight to listen to his effortless brilliance and power … vivid ‘hi-fi’ recording”).

Among the acclaimed solo recital albums in this set are a collection of popular short pieces by Beethoven, Schubert, Dvorák, Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein, Grieg, Falla, Debussy, Gershwin and Rachmaninoff which Pennario plays “with admirable care and impeccable taste” (High Fidelity) as well as both books of Debussy Préludes: “This is a most beautifully played set” (Gramophone).

Although Pennario became best known as a formidable virtuoso, he was also renowned for his performances of chamber music, and RCA documents his participation in the famous series given by Jascha Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky. Their performance of the Mendelssohn C minor Piano Trio was praised by High Fidelity for its “conception of restraint and grandeur … consistently maintained throughout all four movements”, and in the coupling of cello sonatas by Mendelssohn and Strauss, wroteGramophone, “Pennario plays admirably, matching Piatigorsky’s forceful musical characterization.”


A notable characteristic of Pennario’s playing is his extraordinary articulation at extreme speed. As examples of transcendent technique and breathtaking clarity, the two Rachmaninov transcriptions on Disc 2 are hard to beat.

One could hardly complain about the quality of music-making here, yet without exception the piano could have been more forwardly placed. Was he too self-effacing for stardom? Too modest for his own good? Moot points, but Leonard Pennario demands to be heard, reassessed and, on this evidence alone, admitted to the piano Hall of Fame.

– Gramophone


DISC 1: 
Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
Franck: The Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra, M. 46
Litolff: Concerto symphonique No. 4, Op. 102: Scherzo
Piano: Leonard Pennario  
Conductor: Arthur Fiedler 
Orchestra: Boston Pops Orchestra 

DISC 2: 
Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-Flat Major, S. 124
Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major, S. 125
Piano: Leonard Pennario  
Conductor: René Leibowitz 
Orchestra: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

DISC 3: 
J. Strauss Jr.- Pennario: Kaiser-Walzer, Op. 437
Mendelssohn-Rachmaninoff: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 61: No 1 Scherzo
Saint-Saëns-Liszt: Danse macabre, Op. 40
Shostakovich: The Age Of Gold Ballet, Op. 22b: Polka
Prokofiev: The Love for Three Oranges, Op. 33: March
Ravel: La Valse, M. 72
Kreisler-Rachmaninoff: Liebesleid
Gounod-Liszt: Faust: Waltz

DISC 4: 
Dvořák: 8 Humoresques, Op. 101, No. 7 in G-Flat
Tchaikovsky: 2 Pieces, Op. 10, No. 2: Humoresque
Rachmaninoff: 7 Morceaux de salon, Op. 10, No. 5: Humoresque in G
Rachmaninoff: Morceaux de fantaisie, Op. 3, No. 4: Polichinelle in F-Sharp Minor
Debussy: Children' Corner, L. 113, No. 6: Golliwog's Cake-walk
Gershwin: 3 Preludes, IGG 25
Schubert: Moments musicaux, D. 780, No. 3 in F Minor
Beethoven: Für Elise, WoO 59
Tchaikovsky: The Seasons, Op. 37a, No. 11: On the Troika in E
Grieg: Lyric Pieces, Op. 43, No. 6 "To Spring"
Grieg: Lyric Pieces, Op. 43, No. 1 "Butterfly"
Falla: Piezas Españolas, IMF 10, No. 4: Andaluza
Rubinstein: 6 Soirées à Saint-Petersbourg, Op. 44, No. 1: Romance in E-Flat
Tchaikovsky: 6 Pieces, Op. 19, No. 2: Scherzo humoristique in D

DISC 5: 
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 1
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 4, Op. 40
Piano: Leonard Pennario  
Conductor: André Previn 
Orchestra: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

DISC 6: 
Debussy: Préludes, Livre 1, L. 117

DISC 7: 
Debussy: Préludes, Livre 2, L. 123

DISC 8: 
Schumann: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
R. Strauss: Burleske in D Minor
Piano: Leonard Pennario  
Conductor: Seiji Ozawa 
Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra 

DISC 9: 
Mendelssohn: Cello Sonata No. 2, Op. 58
R. Strauss: Cello Sonata, Op. 6
Cello: Gregor Piatigorsky  
Piano: Leonard Pennario

DISC 10: 
Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 66
Arensky: Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 32
Turina: Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 35
Cello: Gregor Piatigorsky  
Violin: Jascha Heifetz 
Piano: Leonard Pennario

DISC 11: 
Beethoven: Piano Trio No. 2 in E-Flat Major, Op. 70
Brahms: Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87
Cello: Gregor Piatigorsky  
Violin: Jascha Heifetz 
Piano: Leonard Pennario

DISC 12: 
Dvořák: Piano Trio No. 3 in F Minor, Op. 65
Franck: Piano Quintet in F Minor, M. 7, FWV 7
Cello: Gregor Piatigorsky  
Violin: Jascha Heifetz 
Piano: Leonard Pennario

Product Description:

  • Release Date: February 08, 2019

  • Catalog Number: 19075899272

  • UPC: 190758992723

  • Label: Sony Music Entertainment

  • Number of Discs: 12

  • Conductor: Arthur Fiedler, André Previn, Seiji Ozawa

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Boston Pops Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Leonard Pennario, Gregor Piatigorsky, Jascha Heifetz