BSO and Fleisher fail to win awards

March 02, 1994|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

Recordings by Baltimore's two best-known classical music institutions -- one by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and two by celebrated pianist Leon Fleisher -- lost out in last night's Grammys.

In Best Orchestral Performance, a disc of Samuel Barber's music that the BSO and its music director, David Zinman, made for the Argo label lost out to a Deutsche Grammophon disc of the music of Bela Bartok that featured Pierre Boulez conducting the Chicago Symphony.

There can be little argument here. Compared to Bartok, one of the 20th century's greatest composers, Barber is a minor figure. The Chicago Symphony is reputed to be one of the world's

greatest orchestras. And Boulez's brilliant, rhythmically precise and lucid interpretations of Bartok's music are already accorded something of the same iconic status long ago earned by Arturo Toscanini's Verdi or Bruno Walter's Brahms.

The neglect of Fleisher is difficult to understand. Until he lost the use of his right hand in 1965, Fleisher was often described as America's finest pianist.

His 30-year-old-plus recordings of the concertos of Beethoven and Brahms are considered among the best ever made, but he has never won a Grammy.

His recording of virtuosic solo pieces for left hand alone was nominated for Best Recording by an Instrumental Soloist (without orchestra). Three concertos for left hand alone competed for Best Recording by an Instrumental Soloist (with orchestra).

The recordings for Sony Classical marked Fleisher's return to the recording studio after an absence of more than a decade.

His solo recital lost out to pianist John Browning's RCA Victor recording of the complete solo piano music of Barber; his concerto disc was bested by the glamorous young violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter's Deutsche Grammophon recording of the Berg Concerto.

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