Leonard Pennario on ReDiscovery (Reissues)

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Lance
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Leonard Pennario on ReDiscovery (Reissues)

Post by Lance » Fri May 21, 2010 11:09 pm

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ReDiscovery RD 166

There was a time around 1960 when Buffalo, New York-born pianist Leonard Pennario was selling more piano recordings than just about anyone else. Pennario's performing/recording heydays were from around 1950 to the mid-1970s although he performed almost to the end of his life. Leonard Pennario, born in 1924, passed away in California on June 27, 2008. He recorded initially and prolifically for Capitol Records, which fell under the umbrella of EMI Records and his recording career continued with EMI. He also made many recordings for RCA Victor and made recordings for Cambria. Reissues have appeared on previous released Pennario material on the ReDiscovery label [this was the only label you could get all of Pennario's four Chopin Scherzos on CD], MSR Classics, Disky, and Testament.

I remember my parents saying, when they visited Leonard in California, that he opened a closet door for them one day and said "this is my life's work!" At that time, there existed a huge array of LP recordings in that closet, the days before CDs. Pennario also endorsed Baldwin pianos (generally heard on his Capitol Recordings) and eventually he teamed up with Steinway & Sons on which his later recordings were made.

Leonard Pennario was a long-time family friend. I remember interviewing him in my studio many years ago. He had just come from WQXR in New York City. When he saw my record collection, he said he thought WQXR's was the largest LP collection he had ever seen until he saw mine! (A compliment I never forgot!) My wife and I had the distinction of driving him to a concert and I prepared his piano for him. This was the first time I had ever heard him perform live his own work, "Midnight on the Cliffs," which splendidly replicates the sound of the ocean in Newport, Rhode Island where Pennario got his inspiration for the piece. This has become one of my favourite "water" pieces.

Leonard Pennario had a technique second to none. He performed solo, concerto, movie music (Spellbound Concerto by Rosza), chamber music with Heifetz and Piatigorsky, and appeared all over the world with the world's most prestigious orchestras and conductors. His Capitol recording days tended to present Pennario as a "popular" classical pianist, much as RCA treated José Iturbi in those days. Some thought of Pennario as less than a top-flight pianist because of those marketing practices. However, Pennario told me personally that his heart was with the chamber music of Schubert, Brahms, Mendelssohn and others, solo music, and the big-time concertos, many of which he recorded.

ReDiscovery has put together a wonderful collection of Pennario's recordings unavailable elsewhere unless you have the original LP recordings. Here we have 78'10" recording time of some Pennario gems, stunningly remastered. A few items are taken from tape, but most are remastered from pristine stereo recordings. Only in one track was I just slightly aware of this being a transfer from vinyl, but it was nearly inaudible. David Gideon of ReDiscovery did a masterful job of restoring these recordings. I trust ReDiscovery will also continue issuing more of Leonard Pennario's recordings thus assisting to keep the name of this extraordinary pianist and musician alive.

Here is the program for ReDiscovery 166:

► Strauss-Schulz-Evler: Arabesques on "The Blue Danube"
► Debussy: Arabesques 1 and 2
► Moszkowski: Caprice Espagnol
► Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody #2
► Grieg: Lyric Pieces, Op. 43: "Butterfly"
► de Falla: Andaluza
► Saint-Saëns-Liszt: Danse Macabre
► Dvořák: Humoresque
► Tchaikovsky: Humoresque
► Rachmaninoff: Humoresque and Polichinelle
► Debussy: Golliwog's Cake Walk (from Children's Corner)
► Tchaikovsky: Scherzo Humoristique
► Kreisler-Rachmaninoff: Liebeslied
► Gounod-Liszt: Waltz from Faust

Highly recommended! You can buy this directly from ReDiscovery at http://www.rediscovery.us and tell them I sent you! These are fine people with whom to deal and you get your discs in record time (no pun intended).
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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MarkC
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Re: Leonard Pennario on ReDiscovery (Reissues)

Post by MarkC » Sat May 22, 2010 1:03 am

The mid-'60's was when I first saw the Chopin movie, "A Song to Remember" (for which, BTW, Iturbi was the pianist). I knew most of the pieces they used in it, but I fell in love with one that I didn't -- and I had to know what it was. Since there was nobody I could conveniently ask, and there was no online or anything like that where I could check, I went about borrowing LP after LP from the library, till I found it -- and it happened to be on a Pennario disc. So, for years and years, his performance of the 2nd scherzo was for me the definitive one. :)

BTW.......do you happen to know the lady who is (supposedly) writing a bio of him? (Mary Kunz Goldman)
I figure that you might since you were a family friend of Pennario; and also, last I heard she was in upstate NY (I think in Buffalo), so she's sort of local. Or maybe you haven't heard of the 'project' at all? The reason I put it in 'quotes' is that there may be some issues and so I'm not sure how much of a project it is. I've been seeing for years that there's going to be a book, but.......no book.

I just missed hearing her play, when she was in the first amateur Van Cliburn competition, 1999. (I wasn't a contestant but went to hear some of the performances.) I later heard the recording of her playing, and it was lovely. Her "day job" is as a writer/reviewer. I gather that her writing and views are regarded by some as controversial in nature, but what I've seen of it is interesting, and for what it's worth, she's a very decent pianist. I was sorry that I hadn't been there for her performance.

I sure hope there'll be a book. If there is, it might be unusual :D but it would surely be full of love and admiration, since she's a huge fan to say the least.

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Re: Leonard Pennario on ReDiscovery (Reissues)

Post by Lance » Sat May 22, 2010 11:54 am

Most interesting, MarkC, that you would bring up the matter of a biography on Pennario. When I learned this after his death, I tried to contact Mary Kunz Goldman directly at her newspaper. As I recall, I even left a phone message or possibly an e-mail. I cannot recall now, but I never heard from her.

The longer these would-be biographies go unwritten, the more likely they will be forgotten or abandoned, which would be a shame in Pennario's case. I am reminded, for example, of someone writing a biography on the great bass-baritone John Charles Thomas. I waited for years. Finally, a paperback book came out but apparently NOT by the person who was going to originally write it. Splendid biography nonetheless. Then there's the case of the brilliant pianist, Raymond Lewenthal, who was writing a book on French composer/pianist Charles Valentin Alkan [Morhange]. That never came to fruition either though Lewenthal's writing and speaking style was eloquent. Whoever has his original papers on this book should make it a life's project to complete it. We do have, on Alkan, pianist Ronald Smith's outstanding two-part book, Alkan: The Man - The Music the only in-depth biography on Alkan to date, published by Appian of England on the two-part reissue of the original two books.

I will try to follow up with Mary Kunz Goldman. Seems to me she is the wife of the publisher of the Buffalo newspaper (after much research in trying to locate her), but I could be wrong about that, or my memory is misbehaving. It was one of the few times I had to give up on a project because of no responses and kind of ending up at a dead end.

Another tidbit on Leonard Pennario is that he recorded some music of JS Bach, a composer we generally don't associate with the pianist. It was apparently recorded by EMI or Capitol but never authorized for release. I have been in touch with Pennario's web site master about this since I would have loved to have broadcast this music in a tribute to Pennario. Once again, I never heard though I know that this webmaster has secured a CD copy of the original Bach recordings. A pity the world cannot hear these wonderful sound documents.•
MarkC wrote:The mid-'60's was when I first saw the Chopin movie, "A Song to Remember" (for which, BTW, Iturbi was the pianist). I knew most of the pieces they used in it, but I fell in love with one that I didn't -- and I had to know what it was. Since there was nobody I could conveniently ask, and there was no online or anything like that where I could check, I went about borrowing LP after LP from the library, till I found it -- and it happened to be on a Pennario disc. So, for years and years, his performance of the 2nd scherzo was for me the definitive one. :)

BTW.......do you happen to know the lady who is (supposedly) writing a bio of him? (Mary Kunz Goldman)
I figure that you might since you were a family friend of Pennario; and also, last I heard she was in upstate NY (I think in Buffalo), so she's sort of local. Or maybe you haven't heard of the 'project' at all? The reason I put it in 'quotes' is that there may be some issues and so I'm not sure how much of a project it is. I've been seeing for years that there's going to be a book, but.......no book.

I just missed hearing her play, when she was in the first amateur Van Cliburn competition, 1999. (I wasn't a contestant but went to hear some of the performances.) I later heard the recording of her playing, and it was lovely. Her "day job" is as a writer/reviewer. I gather that her writing and views are regarded by some as controversial in nature, but what I've seen of it is interesting, and for what it's worth, she's a very decent pianist. I was sorry that I hadn't been there for her performance.

I sure hope there'll be a book. If there is, it might be unusual :D but it would surely be full of love and admiration, since she's a huge fan to say the least.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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MarkC
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Re: Leonard Pennario on ReDiscovery (Reissues)

Post by MarkC » Sat May 22, 2010 1:56 pm

Interesting that you tried to contact her. Need I say, don't take it 'personally' that she didn't respond -- she's apparently a particular kind of person. :) (I was being restrained in how I expressed it in the above post.) Of course, "particular" kinds of people can do remarkably good things, but sometimes they don't handle things in a usual way. I think the fact of there being no book yet, despite her apparent long intent and commitment, might reflect that.

In any event, she plays beautifully. :)

At another of the amateur Cliburn events, I met the biographer of Shura Cherkassky. It turns out (and you may know) that Lewenthal studied with Shura's mother Lydia, and so he also was in those circles. The writer (Elizabeth Carr) therefore knew Lewenthal, who was an interesting enough character that maybe she should write his bio too. :) In view of how he was (i.e. apparently much the same as what he showed publicly), it's not surprising that he wouldn't have finished his book either.

But I loved his playing too, and all that he did. I have a few of his LP's.

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Re: Leonard Pennario on ReDiscovery (Reissues)

Post by stenka razin » Sat May 22, 2010 1:58 pm

Lance, I also know of Mr. Gideon and his fine CD reissues of wonderful old LPs. Your story was so nice to read, my friend. 8)


P.S. I recommend the Hermann Scherchen Gliere Symphony No. 3 'Ilya Mourometz'. Mr Gideon has done a splendid job of restoring that very old Westminster 2 LP set. I highly recommend it. 8)
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Re: Leonard Pennario on ReDiscovery (Reissues)

Post by MaryKunzGoldman » Mon Jun 21, 2010 7:29 pm

Hi gentlemen! I'm the Leonard Pennario biographer and I wanted to introduce myself and explain a couple of things. I am so happy you admire Pennario the way I do and it is so nice of you to be interested in my book. Also, MarkC, thanks for the nice words on my piano playing! You can't imagine how that made my day!

The first thing is, no one has to worry for one second about this book project being abandoned. The first draft is already complete and now it is mostly a matter of editing (as of right now, the book is too long!). It is extremely important to me that Pennario trusted me with this and I am not going to let him or anyone else down. One thing that puzzles me is, I am surprised people think I am so behind in my work. I'm the classical music critic for The Buffalo News -- that's my full-time job -- and these books on musicians land on my desk, and most of them have been over 10 years in the making! And they are by professors with lots of time -- and some of them even have research assistants. I got into this with Pennario only eight months before he died, and he lost most of his papers in an earthquake, plus I am working alone, so please, don't give up on me yet!

Another thing, I am not married to the publisher of the paper. I wish I were because then when I sneaked out early to work on my book no one would hassle me! My husband recently acquired a publishing company but that is something separate.

Note to Lance -- I tried emailing you but I don't think you got it -- I am distressed you could not reach me and I don't know how that could have happened. I have this blog that is kind of jokey but my cell phone is right on it. I mean, I live to talk with people about Pennario and I have always gotten back to everyone. Please try me again ... call me, email me, whatever. My cell phone is 716-816-6279.

Everyone, again, I am so glad to read your appreciation for Pennario and I know he is smiling down. He was one of the world's greats, that is for sure. And what a marvelous spirit. If anyone has any memories of him, or anything else you would like to tell me for the book, I'm always happy to listen.... call me at the number I just gave Lance. Thank you again!

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