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Biography 380 words

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For decades now, Elisabeth Leonskaja has been among the most celebrated pianists of our time. In a world dominated by the media, Elisabeth Leonskaja has remained true to herself and to her music, and in doing so, is following in the footsteps of the great Russian musicians of the Soviet era, such as David Oistrakh, Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels, who never wavered in their focus on the quintessence of music despite working in a very difficult political environment. Her almost legendary modesty still makes her somewhat media-shy today. Yet as soon as she walks out on the stage, audiences can sense the force behind the fact that music is and always has been her life’s work. Elisabeth Leonskaja has appeared as a soloist with virtually all the leading orchestras in the world, such as the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra London, the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, the radio orchestras of Hamburg, Cologne and Munich, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and many others, under the baton of such leading conductors as: Kurt Masur, Sir Colin Davis, Christoph Eschenbach, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Kurt Sanderling, Maris Jansons, Yuri Temirkanov and many others.

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A french journalist wrote "La dernière grande Dame de l´Ecole Soviétique", a Spanish critic named her "Anti-Diva". Both are right.
For decades now, Elisabeth Leonskaja has been among the most celebrated pianists of our time. In a world dominated by the media, Elisabeth Leonskaja has remained true to herself and to her music, and in doing so, is following in the footsteps of the great Russian musicians of the Soviet era, such as David Oistrakh, Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels, who never wavered in their focus on the quintessence of music despite working in a very difficult political environment. Her almost legendary modesty still makes her somewhat media-shy today. Yet as soon as she walks out on the stage, audiences can sense the force behind the fact that music is and always has been her life’s work.

Born in Tbilisi, Georgia, to a Russian family, she was regarded as a child prodigy and gave her first concerts as early as age 11.  While still a student at the Moscow Conservatory, she won prizes in the prestigious Enescu, Marguerite Long and Queen Elizabeth international piano competitions. Elisabeth Leonskaja’s musical development was shaped or influenced to a decisive degree by her collaboration with Sviatoslav Richter. The master recognized her exceptional talent and fostered her development not only through teaching and giving her advice, but also by inviting her to play numerous duets with him. The musical partnership and personal friendship between Sviatoslav Richter and Elisabeth Leonskaja endured until Richter’s death in the year 1997. In 1978 Elisabeth Leonskaja 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 steadily blossoming career as a concert pianist in the west. She is an Honorary Member of the Konzerhaus of Vienna and in 2006, she was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour, First Class, for her sesrvies to the cultural life of the country - the highest award of its kind in Austria.

Her newest CD 'Paris' with works by Ravel, Debussy and Enescu was just released by the Berlin-based label EaSonus (www.easonus.com). A complete recording of the Schubert Sonatas will follo, also due to be released on eaSonus.

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Photos

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Reviews

"The popularity of mercurial Elisabeth Leonskaja amongst audiences has never been higher, perhaps because she is one of “the last of the great Russian school""

Sean Rafferty, Bach Track

"The apogee of what the human mind is capable of: Georgian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja…..Doubtless one of the most ingenious players among the international pianists of our age, Elisabeth Leonskaja, the pianist from Tbilisi in Georgia, has over the years increasingly turned into a well-nigh unsurpassable Schubert-specialist….Elisabeth Leonskaja isn't easy on her audience. She penetrates Schubert's universe at so deep a level that she often leaves listeners breathless, with the listening experience and the empathy at moments almost turning into physical and mental pain. "

Bern, Samstag

"Leonskaja– who invariably produces a warm cultured piano tone – took this unpretentious music by stealth rather than full-frontal assault, combining delicacy and warmth. There was a touch of gemütlich whimsy and a very welcome lightness with each dance fully characterised, yet given air to breathe. Virtuosity was undoubtedly there in abundance in the more demanding pieces, but for the most part Schumann the dreamer-poet prevailed. "

Douglas Cooksey - Classical Source

"Indeed her playing of Chopin Piano Concerto no.2 in F minor combined delicate lyricism with wonderful lucidity, as well as offering spirited attack…..every theme, every sub-theme received its own character, like a shimmering game of glass beads."

Christopher Kalies

"Georgian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja whose warm sound, captivating virtuosity, and incomparable feeling turned the mighty work into an unforgettable listening experience - and all without the slightest trace of straining after effect but rather with a modesty that recalled the late great Clara Haskill. "

Dr. Rolf P. Steiger

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Discography