The Lioness of the Keyboard Hits Tbilisi

Liza Leonskaia - legendary female pianist, born and raised in Georgia, recently turned 70 and gave two unforgettable concerts to celebrate. The first one took place on the 21st of March at the Opera and Ballet Theater- a concert dedicated to the 90th jubilee of the National Symphonic Orchestra, and the second on the 22nd at Rustaveli Theater, where she participated in a soiree dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Sulkhan Tsintsadze Georgian State String Quartet.

On the first day, Leonskaia, together with the National Symphonic Orchestra, under the baton of famous conductor and composer, Nika Rachveli, performed Beethoven’s Concerto No.3 for piano, capping it with Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy, which was dedicated to the memory of the recently deceased soloist of orchestra percussion, Ms. Diana Metreveli. Therefore, together with the birthday disposition, the first concert bore a sad hue, too.

At the Rustaveli Theater, together with the Sulkhan Tsintsadze String Quartet made up of Constantine Vardeli, Tamaz Batiashvili, Nodar Jvania and Otar Chubinishvili, Leonskaia played Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet F dur and Antonin Dvorak’s piano Quintet A dur. Having worked for many years in Germany, the quartet members came back to Georgia in 2006 on the initiative of the Georgian National Music Center.

Liza Leonskaia was considered a wunderkind. She gave her first concert at the age of 11 and, with extraordinary talent, continued her studies at Moscow Conservatoire, attaining prizes at prestigious international piano contests such as Enescu, Marguerite Long and Queen Elizabeth competitions.

Her creative path was strongly influenced by collaboration with Sviatoslav Rikhter, one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. This friendship and cooperation lasted until the death of the latter. It implied not only giving of advice and studying, but also duos, as Rikhter acknowledged her particular talent.

Her international career began shortly after she left Moscow for Vienna. Her irreversible success story began following her sensational performance at Salzburg Festival in 1979. As a soloist, she has cooperated with all leading orchestras of the world: New York, Los Angeles London, Berlin and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras, BBC Symphonic Orchestra London, Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Hamburg, Koln and Munich radio orchestras.

“I dreamed of inviting her and my dream came true,” Nika Rachveli told journalists before the concerts. “It’s symbolic, as Leonskaia and the Orchestra both have birthdays.”

Leonskaia is an honorary and frequent guest at the Salzburg, Vienna and Lutsern prestigious summer festivals. She gives solo concerts at leading concert halls of Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, London, Edinburg, Munich and Vienna. In spite of her tight solo career, she pays considerable attention to chamber music, collaborating with Emerson, Borodin and Artemis quartets.

A lot of records confirm Leonskaia’s particular performing class. She has received the Caecilia Prize for Brahms piano sonatas, Diapazon d’Or for Liszt works, and more. In her second homeland, Austria, she is a real star. Liza is the honorary member of Vienna Konzerthaus. In 2006, she got the highest award of Austria in the sphere of culture – first degree Honor Cross. Today, Leonskaia is baptized as a ‘lioness of keyboard.’ Her virtuoso technique is beyond any praise, received with great warmth and delight everywhere.

Besides being a great musician, Leonskaia is a great philanthropist. She was one of the first to give a helping hand to talented Georgian youngsters and established the SOLO Charity Fund. In 20 years, she has funded over 100 gifted Georgian young performers, including Khatia Buniatishvili, Anita Rachvelishvili, and Levan Tskhadadze. She is still observing the promising young musicians’ development, the majority of whom are studying in the US and European conservatoires and schools.

“The members of the quartet are my old friends and colleagues with whom I have played several times. After so many years, it was a great pleasure to have played with them again,” Leonskaia said following the concert held at Rustaveli Theater.

Maka Lomadze

24 March 2016 21:01