|The late EUGENE ISTOMIN (1925-2003) was one of the greatest and most respected pianists of our time. And now we have the news that Sony Classics has released a boxed set of vintage recordings, EUGENE ISTOMIN: THE CONCERT & SOLO RECORDINGS.
He was also a helluva nice guy. More on that presently.
We have waited for this for decades, inasmuch as most of his recordings have been out of circulation. The discs include his rarely-heard Bach and Mozart recordings; his celebrated performances of concertos by Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Schumann and Chopin; and the classic readings of solo works by Chopin (the Nocturnes are in a class by themselves), Brahms (an unsurpassed “Handel Variations”), Schubert, and Stravinsky. In particular, the Rachmaninoff Second Concerto with Eugene Ormandy has long claimed a place among the very finest readings extant.
|The legendary Istomin-Stern-Rose Trio|
(Stern, left, Rose, center)
It was a great privilege to call Eugene a friend. I had been listening to his recordings since boyhood (when a Columbia Masterworks recording of his Rach 2 and his Chopin Nocturnes changed my life).
My first encounter with Istomin’s Rachmaninoff. . . at age 8! Many years later we talked about this classic performance. Never have Istomin’s performances of the Chopin Nocturnes been surpassed.
|With Eugene Istomin, Washington, D.C. 1989|
|Istomin and Rachmaninoff (drawing by John C. Tibbetts)|
Oh—I forgot to mention Eugene was a rabid baseball fan of the Detroit Tigers. He would attend Spring training, sit in the dugout, and answer to the nickname “Fingers”! I cherish a photograph he let me take of him wearing the full Tigers regalia!
Watch—and listen—for EUGENE ISTOMIN: THE CONCERT AND SOLO RECORDINGS.