C1578. LEONARD BERNSTEIN Cond. NYPO: Ruslan & Ludmila - Overture (Glinka); Symphony #6 in b (Shostakovich); w.YAKOV FLIER: Piano Concerto #3 in d (Rachmaninoff). (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-614, Live Performance, 13 Oct., 1963, Philharmonic Hall, New York. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"The reputation of pianist Yakov Flier faded after his death in 1977, but recent interest in his recordings and career has somewhat revived his name. In fact, he was one of the leading Soviet pianists of his day and might have had far greater success internationally had Cold War politics not encumbered his career. Gilels, then Richter, and finally Lazar Berman were granted permission by Soviet cultural czars to concertize abroad, and so too was Flier. But, unlike that star-studded trio, Flier did not live long after he first appeared in the West. That said, he also played a significant role in limiting his performing career by devoting much of his energies to teaching, and by abandoning solo concerts for a whole decade (1949-1959). It is not surprising then that he made fewer concert tours than many lesser-known pianists and produced comparatively few recordings. Still, in the 1960s and '70s Flier managed to develop a conspicuous following in Western Europe and the United States, not to mention the Soviet Union. His repertory was rich in Romantics, favoring Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, Liszt and Rachmaninov, though it did include contemporaries like Kabalevsky. Flier's recordings were made for the Soviet label Melodiya.
Yakov Flier studied piano at the Moscow Conservatory under the renowned pedagogue Konstantin Igumnov. Flier graduated in 1934 as one of the USSR's most promising keyboard prospects. He lived up to that hope: in 1936 he won first prize at the prestigious Vienna International Piano Competition, ahead of Emil Gilels.
The following year he joined the faculty at the Moscow Conservatory and would eventually become a professor (1945) and chair of the piano department (1965). Over the years his students included composer Rodion Shchedrin, Viktoria Postnikova, and Mikhail Pletnev. In 1938, Flier finished third in the Eugene Ysaye Competition in Brussels, an event won, ironically, by Gilels. After fading somewhat during the postwar years because of his exclusive focus on chamber concerts, he began building an international reputation in the 1960's. His debut in the U.K. was in 1962, and although he drew high praise internationally, he was generally eclipsed abroad by Richter and Gilels during his final decade-and-a-half."
- Robert Cummings, allmusic.com
“Bernstein gave a credibility to American musicianship that hadn’t existed before, easing our sense of inferiority. He came along and did what seemed impossible: bringing Mahler back to Vienna!
He loved storytelling, and music for him was just a vehicle for telling stories. Often his stories had important morals as well: There was always a lesson to be learned. For me that was a big takeaway. He was so many things: a great conductor, great composer, great pianist. But he was also a TV star, he was a thinker, he was a philosopher, he was a political activist. How many people could wear all of those hats at once? It’s a rare thing.”
-Marin Alsop, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 23 Aug., 2018
“Bernstein was ‘one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history’. He is quite possibly the conductor whose name is best known to the public in general, especially the American public. His fame derived from his long tenure as the music director of the New York Philharmonic, from his conducting of concerts with most of the world's leading orchestras, and from his music for WEST SIDE STORY, as well as CANDIDE, WONDERFUL TOWN, ON THE TOWN and his own MASS. Bernstein was also the first conductor to give numerous television lectures on classical music, starting in 1954 and continuing until his death. In addition, he was a skilled pianist, often conducting piano concertos from the keyboard.
In 1960 Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic held a Mahler Festival to mark the centenary of the composer's birth. Bernstein, Walter and Mitropoulos conducted performances. The composer's widow, Alma, attended some of Bernstein's rehearsals. The success of [Bernstein’s Mahler] recordings, along with Bernstein's concert performances and television talks, was an important part of the revival of interest in Mahler in the 1960s, especially in the US.
In 1964 Bernstein conducted Franco Zeffirelli's production of Verdi's FALSTAFF at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In 1966 he made his début at the Vienna State Opera conducting Luchino Visconti's production of the same opera with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as Falstaff. He returned to the State Opera in 1968 for a production of DER ROSENKAVALIER and in 1970 for Otto Schenk's production of Beethoven's FIDELIO. Sixteen years later, at the State Opera, Bernstein conducted his sequel to TROUBLE IN TAHITI, A QUIET PLACE, with the ORF orchestra."
- Donal Henahan, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 15 Oct., 1990