By Lawrence Budmen

New recordings by pianists Adam Neiman and Leon McCawley bring their superb performances at the Miami International Piano Festival to listeners far beyond South Florida. VAI Records ( offers a two disc set of the brilliantly gifted Neiman’s performances in South Florida in 2001 and 2003. These live concert performances are unedited and offered in vivid, lifelike sound (under the masterful hand of South Florida recording engineer Peter McGrath). 

Robert Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes, Opus 13 are a supreme technical and intellectual challenge for any keyboard artist. Neiman’s multi-colored, surging interpretation is simply stunning. This pianist’s technique is awesome. Schumann’s passionate Romanticism comes alive with riveting clarity in this rendition. Neiman adventurously offers Chopin’s rarely heard Rondo a la Mazur in a scintillating version. This salon piece acquires new depth and meaning when played with such artistry. The Baroque elegance of J.S. Bach’s English Suite No.2 in A Minor is given full measure in Neiman’s finely chiseled performance. Above all Neiman knows how to make this music dance – the very essence of Bach’s springy rhythms. The pianist’s bravura side is on full display in a bracing rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Sonata No.1 in D Minor, Opus 28. That composer’s stormy, intense Trio Elegiaque No.1 in G Minor caps this stellar recording in a performance for the ages. Neiman is joined by violinist Igor Gruppman (former concertmaster of the Florida Philharmonic and, presently, concertmaster of Holland’s Rotterdam Philharmonic which is due in Miami next season) and cellist Mark Kosower. Gruppman and Kosower bring patrician artistry to this gorgeous work. Neiman proves a superb chamber musician. Why is this extraordinary pianist not receiving major engagements with the world’s top symphony orchestras?

Last month the British pianist Leon McCawley held a Lincoln Theater audience spellbound with his sparkling Scarlatti, graceful Mozart, and deeply felt Rachmaninoff. One of the highlights of that concert was McCawley’s lyrical, kaleidoscopic version of Schumann’s Kinderscenen. A new two record set of McCawley’s Schumann interpretations on the Avie label ( is a veritable piano lover’s dream come true. This marvelous pianist’s crystalline tone, exquisite musical taste, and artistic integrity shine through his performance of the complex Kreisleriana. His introspective, subtly nuanced version of Davidsbundlertanze finds the pathos behind this score’s schizophrenic dance rhythms. The beautiful Arabesque has the lightness of quicksilver. The sheer élan and verve of McCawley’s version of Waldszenen is a pure delight. This set offers artistry of the highest order by a unique musician.

VAI reissues a splendid Ivory Classics set of performances by the legendary Nadia Reisenberg (1904-1983). This great pianist and teacher was a true master of the Russian repertoire. Dimitri Kabalevsky’s witty, imaginative Twenty-Four Preludes, Opus 38 are infused with vibrant energy. It is in vignettes by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff that Ms. Reisenberg rekindles the unique 19th century Russian keyboard style. Her limpid tone, expressive intensity, and unabashedly sentimental approach to this music are like a bygone moment frozen in time. The program notes for this recording are by Ms. Reisenberg’s son Robert Sherman. Many transplanted New Yorkers will remember that Sherman interviewed the greats of the music world for over a quarter century on his program The Listening Room on New York’s classical music station WQXR. Sherman was a judge at the 2003 Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition in Miami. This recoding – a labor of love for Sherman – is a terrific tribute to Ms. Reisenberg’s artistry. Pure Russian nostalgia! 

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