For his second season as Artist-in-Residence, Leonard has been asked to curate three chamber programs for the Bremen Philharmonic Society and will perform in two of them. The overarching theme of the concerts is Christianity and Music and will include a Christmas concert program with TenThing – the Brass Ensemble led by the renowned Trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth – including Kurt Weill and Astor Piazzola, an evening combining Vivaldi Concertos and the Baroque music of the Spanish Jesuits from Bolivia, together with Nicola Benedetti and members of Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, and a program dedicated to the role of Christianity in contemporary music, featuring a duo for cello and accordion by Sofia Gubaidulina and a commissioned world premiere by Suzanne Farrin with Ksenija Sidirova, and ending with Messiaen’s Quator pour la fin du temps, with the Sitkovetsky Trio and Michael Collins.BBC New Generation Artist
Over his two-year tenure as BBC New Generation Artsit, Leonard performed and recorded 13 cello concertos with all five BBC orchestras, made 6 recordings at the Maida Vale Studios with various collaborators, gave 3 consecutive appearances at the BBC Proms, and gave recitals at the Wigrmore Hall, Sage Gateshead, and Cheltenham Festival. As part of a continuing relationship with the BBC Philharmonic, he will be releasing two CDs of British 20th century cello concertos, including a new concerto written for him by Mark Simpson (2017).
For his third album for ONYX, together with pianist Peter Limonov, Leonard concludes his Russian trilogy, with works by Alfred Schnittke. This follows his previous releases of music by earlier 20th century composers; Rachmaninov, Kabalevsky, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich. The new album also includes a composition of his own.
„The most tragic work I know,“ is how cellist Leonard Elschenbroich describes Shostakovich’s Viola Sonata, his harrowing last composition, completed in 1975. The piece was originally planned, however, as a cello sonata for Mstislav Rostropovich, then exiled from the USSR; just before his death, Shostakovich asked cellist Daniil Shafran to prepare a version for the lower instrument. It’s Shafran’s version that Elschenbroich gives us here in a performance of tremendous assurance and power. You could argue that the cello’s warmth adds a touch of lyricism that detracts from the sparseness of the original. But there’s no mistaking the intensity and commitment that Elschenbroich and pianist Alexei Grynyuk bring to it, and the closing pages, which look unflinchingly towards extinction, are unnerving in the extreme. Its companion piece, radically different, is Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata, in which Grynyuk’s energy and Elschenbroich’s sense of poetry are joyously to the fore. Exceptional.
Tim Ashley, May 2013