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Kurt LEIMER (1920-1974)
Piano Concerto No.4 in one movement (1955) [35:39]
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Concerto in F (1925) [31:45]
Kurt Leimer (piano)
Skyline Symphony Orchestra/Günter Neidlinger (Gershwin)
Symphony of the Air/Leopold Stokowski  (Leimer)
rec. 1970 or 1972 (Gershwin); 1959 (Leimer)
Experience Classicsonline

This is the third Leimer disc to come my way, the result of a fruitful collaboration between the Leimer Foundation and Colosseum. For a brief biography  – and a further example of his art – I suggest you read the earlier review which discussed both releases; one was of his own Concerto for the left hand, coupled with a work he championed, Strauss’s Panathenäenzug and the other was a less impressive survey of the Chopin Etudes. Leimer’s early death though certainly robbed the world of a most versatile composer and executant, as his surviving recordings have shown.
Colosseum have got themselves into something of a muddle regarding the recording date of Leimer’s single movement Concerto directed by none other than Leopold Stokowski with the Symphony of the Air. 1961, 1969 and 1959 are offered but surely March 1959 is the right one. I called Leimer’s Left Hand concerto an “astounding smorgasbord” with its evocation of Rachmaninoff, Schulhoff, Ravel and Gershwin, Addinsell and Boogie Woogie. The crazed patina evoked by those influences is not quite replicated in the 1955 concerto, though it has its moments. These are propelled by a striking march theme which is juxtaposed against a yielding lyric second subject and some jazzy syncopations. The strong, sinewy trumpet calls recur but it’s those moments of fugitive delicacy that stay most in the mind – the dream like simplicity of one section – as much as the bravura Gershwin-derived ones. This attempt at synthesis between lyricism and bombast might summon up the half digested shade of Prokofiev but there are also moments of finesse that certainly sound French, as well as moments when Leimer has dug deep into the German heritage of which he was so laudable an exponent; Strauss, once again prominently. Stokowski was an admirer of Leimer and promoted him and his music for a while. It certainly has a demotic eclecticism that keeps attention unflagging though its patchwork quality is more difficult to defend architecturally and stylistically. The composer executant plays with admirable assurance throughout.
It’s not surprising that Leimer recorded Gershwin’s Concerto in F though the claims made for it – the greatest ever recording etc. – surely can’t be supported. Once again there’s confusion over the recording date – 1970 or two years later. I’ve decided on 1972. Comparison with the Wild/Fiedler shows Leimer is less kinetic and driving in the outer movements and more inclined to linger over the central one. It’s certainly instructive to hear Leimer essay a work by a composer he clearly revered and his lyrical generosity is a pleasure to hear. But rhythmic corners are turned more sharply elsewhere, however valuable it is to hear the composer-pianist wholly as executant.
Colosseum may be confused about recording dates but they’re doing valuable fringe restoration work when it comes to Leimer’s legacy; let’s hope there is more to keep them busy.
Jonathan Woolf


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