As children, we all had our iconic heroes, famous mentors, or performers we would die to meet. It is not very often in life these dreams become reality; however, The Royal Conservatory Orchestra had the unforgettable opportunity to rehearse, study, and perform under the honorary Leon Fleisher. Following the misfortune of losing feeling in his right hand, he has become devoted to teaching, mentoring, and conducting, working with some of the greatest orchestras in the world. Since the birth of the Glenn Gould School of Music in 2009, he has been a prolific attribute to the development and growth of the students as a conductor, teacher, and soloist.

Leon Fleisher, © Joanne Savio
Leon Fleisher,
© Joanne Savio

Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin opened with an elegant oboe solo which sung over the orchestra, immediately capturing the audience’s attention. Ravel intertwines the melody through all orchestral sections and the orchestra impressively passed the melodic lines from strings to woodwinds with a high level of clarity and precision. The French themes were clearly played, transforming Koerner Hall into a Parisian market. The Allegretto movement began slightly darker than the Prelude, however; it embodied lovely emotions through various woodwind solos which broke the tension of a more distraught string accompaniment. The strong connection between Fleisher and the orchestra was felt through the exuberant expressivity and strong dynamic contrast. The Menuet featured extraordinary woodwind playing, displaying an immense amount of talent through various solos. On occasion, the strings may have used too much vibrato; however, the elaborate ornamentation was well suited and was not overdone. The final movement began very statement-like and progressed to a dance. The violin pizzicato accompanying the oboe solo drew a variety of diverse moods from the piece. Maestro Fleisher masterfully incorporated a sudden rubato to make for a heroic conclusion.

Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto no. 4 in B flat major for the left hand, Op. 53 saw Fleisher take his post at the Steinway while the audience welcomed resident conductor Uri Mayer to the stage. The vibrant start featured colorful scalic runs by Fleisher. The orchestra was slightly off-tempo as the piano picked up pace, but this was quickly corrected. The intricate syncopation was crisply defined by the orchestra. Fleisher was intently focused on the music and appeared very animated. The second movement was more emotional with drawn-out cello and woodwind lines. Fleisher’s quiet entry echoed the solemnity set forth by the orchestra. The warm first violin solo gave new meaning to the marking ff, being played with a very full feeling. The concluding flute solo was slightly reserved and could have been more emotive. The Moderato began with a misterioso feel. The fun began for Fleisher as he tackled octave runs with mastery and brightness. The piano cadenza, full and rich in sound, gave the illusion of two hands playing. The Vivace finale was a slight tug and pull for tempo, but the melody was well defined and gave the concerto an amusing and abrupt conclusion.

Beethoven’s Symphony no. 7 in A major, Op. 92 took off with a melodious oboe solo surrounded by exuberant chords. Right away, Fleisher asked more of his violins, gesturing for stronger bowing. His subtle conducting drew lovely light, floating sounds. A great connection was made between the flutes and violins leading into the iconic melody. The stage came to life through the festive and celebratory theme. The graceful viola and cello melody transitioned well from the buoyant first movement. Very distinct phrases were linked amidst the sections and the themes were clearly articulated. The delicate triplet accompaniment in the violin countered the melody. The dynamic contrast was well executed with vibrant chords countering almost silent pianissimi. The Presto restored the gigue feeling of the first movement. The fierce dynamic contrasts of the third movement were abrupt yet breathtaking. The slower interlude was pompous and energetic leading into remarkable brass and woodwind soli. The Allegro con brio was joyous and cheerful, and the Royal Conservatory Orchestra clearly embodied the feeling of Beethoven into their celebration. There were slight moments of rushing due to the excitement of the piece. The grandiose brass fanfare sung over the strings, creating an epic finale.

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