Konzerthausorchester Berlin, Joana Mallwitz
Warmth, sincerity, approachability – these qualities characterise both Elisabeth Leonskaja’s piano playing and her personality. In the spring of 2022, she played a highly acclaimed piano recital for our Shostakovich tribute, and prior to that, she had given numerous recitals and solo concerts with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin on Gendarmenmarkt.
The great pianist trusts in the inherent power of sounds: “Don’t look for yourself in the music, look for music in yourself,” as she puts it into words. This speaks to her reverence for the work and the heritage of the Russian Piano School, whose great tradition is evident in her playing. “Stylistic sense”, as well as the “inner freedom” within it, are among her “sacred rules”.
As part of her homage, which also includes a public master class (26 February), Elisabeth Leonskaja will perform Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto (22-24 February), Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas (25 February), works of the Second Viennese School by Berg, Webern and Schönberg (28 February), Schumann’s Piano Quintet with the Konzerthaus Quartet (29 February) and the Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 by Johannes Brahms with the Konzerthausorchester under Michael Sanderling (2 & 3 March).
Born into a Russian family in Tbilisi, Georgia, Elisabeth Leonskaja gave her first concerts at the age of 11. Her extraordinary talent soon led her to the Moscow Conservatory. While still a student at the Conservatory, she won prizes at the prestigious Enescu, Marguerite Long and Queen Elizabeth international piano competitions. Her musical development was decisively influenced by her collaboration with Sviatoslav Richter.
In 1978, the artist left the Soviet Union and made her new home in Vienna. Her sensational performance at the Salzburg Festival in 1979 marked the beginning of her career as a concert pianist in the west.
In addition to numerous solo engagements, chamber music remains an important part of her work. She has performed several times with string quartets, including the Belcea, Borodin Artemis and Jerusalem quartets, and she has also enjoyed a longstanding musical friendship with the Alban Berg Quartet.
Numerous recordings bear testimony to the outstanding artistic achievements of the pianist, who has been awarded prizes such as the Caecilia Prize for her Brahms piano sonatas and the Diapason d’Or for her recordings of works by Liszt. Other significant recordings include the Tchaikovsky Piano Concertos with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Kurt Masur, the Chopin Piano Concertos with the Czech Philharmonic under Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Shostakovich Piano Concertos with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
In her second homeland, Austria, Elisabeth Leonskaja is an honorary member of the Vienna Konzerthaus. In 2006, she was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, First Class, for her outstanding service to the country’s culture. In Georgia, she was named a Priestess of Art in 2016. In 2020, she received the International Classical Music (ICMA) Lifetime Achievement Award.