Leslie Howard is a colossus among concert pianists. He is Australian, and though familiar to those who know the inside of the music business, he might be less well-known to the wider world.
He is most famous for his immense 97-disc recording of the complete Liszt, but that must not be allowed to overshadow this new recording on the Australian Melba label, on which he plays both of Rachmaninov’s Piano Sonatas in the most authoritative interpretations and performances I’ve heard in many a year.
In particular, his performance of the mighty Second Sonata, which he plays in the original version (Rachmaninov had revised it during a period of uncertainty), completely validates the composer’s first thoughts and is delivered with absolute conviction by the Australian, whose intellectual command of the music, never mind the spectacular virtuosity, is breathtakingly represented by the sheer clarity he finds in the score, where some find only thick textures and thunder. This is a landmark recording.