Malcolm Frager is one of my favorite pianists and he died far too young. Born in 1935, he began studies at the age of six and by ten he had premiered with the St. Louis Symphony. He was awarded the Leventritt in 1959. This is a special recognition because the Leventritt was not a contest. The judges were unannounced and they examined young artists in their regular performances. They did not make awards every year and it has since been disbanded. It was an award of special merit and they got it right with Frager. He had great facility, but also tremendous artistic sensibility and a special intelligence. In addition to his great performance artistry, he was also a renowned scholar and made important discoveries of the original manuscript of the Schumann piano concerto and a collection of manuscripts of 18th and 19th century artists that were presumed lost in World War II. We miss him very much. Sadly, he died of cancer in 1991.
The first six tracks of this wonderful disk were previously released. With them is a very fine recording of the monumental Sonata in B-minor Opus 58. Every track is a delight and you will want to hear them. His playing is free and clear. There are no tricks or mannerisms in order to appeal to the popular audience. This is gloriously pure playing of Chopin that goes at both the heart and the mind.
His piano is the co-star of this album. It was recorded in 1978 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Bösendorfer piano. This is considered one of the elite pianos and has its fans. Some call it their imperial grand the Rolls Royce of pianos. They are still hand made in Vienna in small quantities. Yes, they are very expensive. But if you need to ask ...
The disk opens with the ever popular and wonderful Heroic Polonaise in A-flat major Opus 53. The Andante Spianato & Grand Polonaise, and the opus 12 Variations Brillantes follow. He then plays the Mazuraks Opus 6, a Contredanse, the Opus 43 Tarantelle, and then the previously mentioned B-minor Sonata. All wonderful stuff.
This is a disk you will enjoy listening too many times.