In the press

Press commentaries on my concerts

“His smooth tones with perfect edge definition told stories of self-confident defiance, graceful posture and plain naturalness. The pianist’s solo cadenza of the first movement was richly provided with romantic trimmings, pefectly worthy of a Schumann.” (about his debut in the Philharmonia Berlin / Berliner Morgenpost)

The matinée in the Mendelssohn-Haus in Leipzig topped off the readers’ tour organised by Fono Forum with pianist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy, who showed that he is not only one of the greatest virtuosos of the young generation but that he is also capable of performing great dynamic music with outstanding articulation in an independent and powerful way. (Gregor Willmes, editor in chief of the music magazine Fono Forum / Fono Forum 2005)

“Mr Schmitt-Leonardy impressed with his slender and lucidly trickling tone and his well-determined touch. He developed the music completely out of the vocal line, in a word – he played a Mozart of the fine version.” (Rheinische Post)

“But it was the dynamic Piano Concerto No.3, one of the most technically demanding piano pieces of all time in the hands of German pianist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy, that drew the attention of the audience. It was a fluid, laid back approach for the tall lanky pianist, almost effortless at the beginning before sweeping, once again, seamlessly to the more dynamic and virtuosic climaxes in the third movement...” (International Piano Festival Malaysia / Star two)

"What a breath of spring, the tall slim young german pianist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy ushered in as he performed with brilliant bravura Prokofiev's most popular "Sonata No.3 Op.28" and the Brahms "Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op.35 Books 1 and 2" with the utmost technical demands, like a prodigious child breezily, easily and happily playing his favourite game! With the Philippine Vienna based young pianist -conductor Aries Caces, orchestra and pianist played Mozart's "Concerto No.24 in C minor K.491" expressing hidden grief in a poised declamatory way especially in the variation-finale where there are Neapolitan depressions. The cadenzas were Mr. Schmitt-Leonardy's own innovations. To a never-ending standing ovation Wolfram performed Saint-Saens "Hémiones" from the "Carnival of the Animals". (Maria Celine Veloso Pil / Manila)

“Mr Schmitt-Leonardy displayed a breath-taking virtuosity....a marvel on the piano.” (Musikfestspiele Saar / SZ)

“Mr Schmitt-Leonardy impressed the audience with his energetic but although very sensitive solo, wich showed that he is not only a highly gifted musician, but also an artist, who knew how to convey experience music.” (SZ)

“Pulsating and breathing piano playing, which lacked neither cantability nor dramatic contour.”("Luxemburger Wort")

“The soloist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy mastered the solo part with agility and superiority.” (50th Berlin Festwochen in the Philharmonia Berlin / Der Tagesspiegel 2000)

“A wonder of sensitive touch. His repertoire of expression is of enormous variety and intensity, trickling lightness, highest agility and complete transparency...it was a fascinating phenomenon.” ("Kieler Nachrichten")

“It was like pianistic fireworks. Mr Schmitt-Leonardy’s playing remained thrilling right down to the pianissimo. The pianist’s captivating and colourful playing made the work (Stravinsky’s Pétrouchka) burst of vividness.” (Solingen)

“Mr Schmitt-Leonardy’s piano playing was convincing and exciting right down to the last detail.” (Austria)

“A concert of flying hands...a real top pianist.” (Westfalenpost)

“Mr Schmitt-Leonardy breathed new life into elsewhere often rattled-through Mozart and formed an immensely breathing music.” (SZ)

“The pianist who was born in 1967 formed an immensely breathing music, which ranged passionately between a deceptive, muted idyll and desperate emotional outbursts.” (SZ)

“While the orchestra kept itself in the background, the soloist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy created brilliant sounds; a marvellous synthesis of humour, melancholly, expressiveness and technique... an extraordinary soloist.” (NRZ)

“Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy, the soloist of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Nations, played enchantingly, self-confident, sensitive and brilliant.” (SZ)

“Playing with a light hand and great sensitivity, Mr Schmitt-Leonardy was overwhelmingly brilliant. Despite all brilliance he showed lyric, very soft lines, but also powerful, strict melodic bows where they belonged. An outstanding performance of the pianist which received thunderous, endless applause.” (SZ)

„His play impresses with technical perfection down to the last detail, which does not remain only an end in itself. Clearness and transparency come first for him, his touch never seeks the violent characteristics of so many other soloists, but forms the singing, the gentle and the natural. In Mr Schmitt-Leonardy’s interpretation, the playful and folkloric characteristics are eye-catching. It is not excessively dramatic, but has quiet greatness and striking lines.” (SZ)

“Mr Schmitt-Leonardy’s performance is known for its captivating realization, powerful and sensitive at the same time, with superior calmness and serenity, in the high points of technical brilliance. The thrilling and relaxed joy he gets from playing combines with a structured dynamic. Everthing seems natural but nevertheless exudes a tension that nobody can resist.” (SZ)

SCHMITT-LEONARDY QUANDO IL PIANISTA È PURE MECCANICO Per Wolfram Schmitt- Leonardy il pianoforte non ha segreti. Il musicista tedesco, ospite di Incontro sulla tastiera e per la prima volta di scena nel Vicentino lo ha dimostrato alla platea dell'Auditorium Canneti con un programma che non lasciava adito a superficialità per la presenza di autori che hanno contribuito a ridefinire e ampliare il corpus della letteratura pianistica rendendolo luminoso ed elevato.
Schmitt-Leonardy ha esordito con una classica pagina mozartiana, la Sonata in fa maggiore K. 280 in cui l'autore s'ispira ai punti di riferimento silistici delle Sonata dell'epoca, specie Haydn, ma senza rinunciare a "sperimentare". La Sonata è riflessiva e impreziosita da una perla, il centrale Adagio, che il pianista tedesco dipinge con ispirazione malinconica e sognante. 
Ma il sogno in Mozart è solo un assaggio del vasto mondo di sentimenti, passioni, lievità, acutezza, e giochi di contrasti, ispiratore del famoso Carnaval Op. 9 di Schumann. La raccolta è sottotitolata "Scènes mignonnes sur quatre notes", dove l'acronimo ASCH indica il piccolo paese originario della sua fidanzata e soprattutto la classificazione dei nomi delle note nei paesi di lingua germanica. I venti piccoli pezzi combinano queste lettere danzanti in un meraviglioso viaggio attraverso sensazioni, emozioni e ritmi e definiscono nel pensiero di Schumann il personale impegno fra i "Compagni di David" nella lotta metaforica contro i Filistei nell'arte. 
Ma in un altro momento, oltre che nella scelta del programma, il pianista ha dimostrato di conoscere a fondo il suo strumento. Non tutti i solisti conoscono l'interno del loro strumento e pochi sono in grado di armeggiare con attrezzi per rimettere in sesto le corde. Circa a metà esecuzione una corda si è allentata e con estrema nonchalance Schmitt-Leonardy si è alzato accordandosela da solo. Ma il grancoda Steinway sul palco del Canneti aveva in serbo ancora un'altra sorpresa. È successo durante la conclusione dello Scherzo chopiniano e ugualmente, con humour, ma con competenza e senza perdere né concentrazione né self-control, Schmitt ha personalmente messo a posto la pedaliera che fastidiosamente continuava a rumoreggiare. Come un meccanico, steso sotto il pianoforte ha riparato il danno e ha ripreso con estrema dominanza tecnica alcune battute prima di attaccare senza alcuna sbavatura il Lento-Marcia funebre che dà il nome alla Sonata forse più famosa di Chopin, quella in Si bemolle minore. 
Cantabile, espressivo e poderoso il pianista ne ha regalato una interpretazione superba. Come nelle precedenti 17 Variations Serieuses op. 54 di Mendelssohn, rese in modo brillante, avvincente, tecnicamente superlative anche se in alcune risoluzioni troppo veloci. Applausi ed entusiasmo. (IL GIORNALE DI VICENZA)

“With almost electrifying verve, the pianist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy performed the solo part.” (Schwetzinger Zeitung)

“The showpiece pianist played tremendously and coped gallantly with Liszt’s technical brilliance as well as with the lyric parts. Sophisticated, splendid trickling runs, whirring cadenzas; his tone sometimes as quiet as whispered, is then again totally precise. These are characteristics of the pianist’s brilliant virtuoso playing. A rousing performance with bravura. (SZ)

“Mr Schmitt-Leonardy’s interpretation of the famous Horovitz-transcription of Franz Liszt’s 15th Hungarian Rhapsody was absolutely breath-taking. Sometimes it seemed, as if he didn’t just play the piano, but a whole orchestra. It was incredible that although he played that fast, all the notes retained their own clear character rather than being swamped by the overall effect. Every tone was individual and developped a momentum of its own. His playing showed almost physically, what an outstanding pianist the young German is, who received important international awards. (Nürtinger Zeitung)

Masterful Schmitt-Leonardy….wonderful ability to capture Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.3 in D Minor in its passion and glory….beautifully and majestically delivered. The audience was captivated by Schmitt-Leonardy. (International Piano Festival Malaysia / New Sunday Times)

“[…] a coherent interpretation characterised by pianistic brilliancy. However, the focus was not on virtuoso attitude – Mr Schmitt-Leonardy applied the concept of “sound language” to his playing and showed a feeling for sensitive overtones during the middle movement. He was effortlessly able to meet the high technical demands of the finale and brought a dance-like brio to the waltz passage. With his crystal clear touch, he accentuated the brilliant torrents of sound only to let the end of the movement explode like fireworks in bright F major. (Esslinger Zeitung)

“During Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto No. 1, he frequently proved his virtuosity, mastered the difficult passages in all of the three movements with flying colours and thus also helped the orchestra to a dynamic development.” (Besigheim)

“The two soloists at the piano were pure joy to listen to.” (Dülmener Zeitung)

“Without any difficulties whatsoever, pianist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy integrated himself into the quartet (Rodin Quartett München). The performance was characterised by a joy of playing and perfectly executed, rapid changes of pace. His virtuosity and feeling for nuances as well as the intense eye contact he held, showed Mr Schmitt-Leonardy as a talented and coveted dialogue partner.” (SZ)

“[…] from the first touch a convincing soloist at the grand piano. Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy impressed with all kinds of touch – striking and powerful in allegro, subtle and flowing in the tender and lyric andantino, with its swiftly executed runs with which the soloist illustrated his extraordinary virtuosity, or fast-paced and expressive in the solo part of the final movement. The performances of both the soloist and the orchestra were characterised by passionate symphonic brio.” (Sachsenheimer Zeitung)

Press commentaries on my CD's

“This CD makes astonishing and exquisite listening. In 1999 Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy gave his debut recording with an excellent, well considered and detailed account of Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto (ebs 6099). His interpretation of Kabalevsky’s 3rd Piano Sonata –once upon a time championed by Horovitz- is indicative of Schmitt-Leonardy’s artistic independence and his creative sense of producing piano sound. The selection of Preludes by Kabalevsky, confirm their player’s stylistic, dynamic and emotional range. The 14th Prelude, which ends this recital, is a fine example of astonishing pianistic fire works. (Knut Franke in Fono Forum 03/2002 about the new solo album, Top rating : 5 out of 5 stars)

“...with an electrifying appreciation of passion and clarity but also of the light moments. Kabalevsky’s Preludes suddenly get a disarming attitude; Mr Schmitt-Leonardy spices up sterile formalism with sharp-edged contours and passion.” (Guido Fischer in Piano News 03/04/2002 about the new solo album with works of Dmitri Kabalevsky)

"Schmitt-Leonardy is perfectly suited to this music. He has seemingly limitless technique, precise and clear, with a wide range of color in his sound. He makes effective use of rubato and delivers the material with just the right amount of panache. In the large set of variations, the pianist has an overall conception that effectively builds in a classical framework to a virtuosic conclusion that ends quietly. Recorded sound is quite good, as is the booklet. "-American Record Guide

“With vivacity and surprising decisions he shows the old charger the way through well-known territory. Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy has power and assertiveness. He uses the figurative passages for a chamber music-like arrangement, he is present in rhythmics and above all: he wets the appetite for an encounter in the concert hall. A production which is very promising for the pianist’s future.” (Peter Cossé in KLASSIK heute 04/2000 about the Tchaikovsky/Gershwin CD)

“In the liner notes, Schmitt-Leonardy, born in Saarlouis, Germany, in 1967, is billed as an “aesthete of sound at the piano”. This is by no means an empty claim, for he is a young artist capable of dazzling brilliance as well as interpretive sophistication, depth and originality. This record should be on every pianist’s “acquire” list. It even has marvellous sound. Horowitz was first to introduce the Third Sonata to America shortly after World War II, and anyone who has heard his matchless recording of it may feel that anyone else’s performance would naturally be outclassed. This is not the case with Schmitt-Leonardy’s superbly deft and buoyant Kabalevsky Third. It may not be Horowitz, but it comes tantalizingly close. The Second Sonata, from a year earlier (1945), though not as provocative as the Third, is a work of larger dimensions and of rich and gripping interest. Kabalevsky’s 24 Preludes (1943-44) are piano works that seem both more fascinating and pianistic than either Prokofieff’s Visions Fugitives or Shostakovich’s Preludes. Schmitt-Leonardy’s performances of nine of them are wonderfully stylistic, full of élan and shimmering pianistic color. An outstanding new piano release (David Mulbury in American Record Guide/USA 2002)

A controlled but rousing performance, stirring in all the right places (Ates Orga in the British magazine PIANO in an article about all existing recordings of Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto no.1)

Pianist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy masters Brahms’ cruelly difficult Paganini Variations to the point where he downplays the music’s burly bravura by choice rather than necessity. He shapes its textures from the bottom up, bringing bass lines and countermelodies into sharp relief while discovering new ones on the repeats. Similar scrutiny and clarification governs the pianist’s Handel Variations. Schmitt-Leonardy convinces on his own terms. Suppleness and lyricism are in bountiful supply throughout the Variations on a Theme of Schumann, as, for example, you observe in Var. 9’s delicious drypoint articulation, Var 13’s shimmering runs, or Variation 15’s gorgeously-spun legato. (Jed Distler in Classics Today)

Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy is a superb pianist and a superlative Brahms player. He proves himself a strong interpreter with a subtle understanding of the shades and depths of emotion in Brahms’ music. In all of his performances, the heart and soul and spirit are right there, inhabiting the vigorous but melancholy world of Brahms. Of course. Schmitt-Leonardy’s mind is there, too: the intellectual power of his Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel is dazzling. These Variations walk the line between intelligence and virtuosity. His “Paganini Variations” explore the gradations between passion and violence. But the essence of Schmitt-Leonardy’s performances, like the core of Brahms’ music, is in the chiaroscuro, in the shades between light and shadow and the distance between joy and sorrow. Schmitt-Leonardy’s Variations on a Hungarian Theme and especially his Variations on a Theme of Robert Schumann find Brahms’ heart and soul and spirit in the alternations of fast and slow, in the tones between major and minor, in the space between here and now, the there and then, and there yet to come. Schmitt-Leonardy has an ideal Brahms technique, deep-toned and massive with the warmth and color of aged brandy. There have been many recordings of Brahms’ piano music over the years and certainly other recordings of the works one should hear, but for anyone who loves heartfelt, soulful, and spiritual Brahms playing, Schmitt-Leonardy’s recordings will be deeply appreciated. (James Leonard in All Music Guide 2006)

With this recording of Brahms’s great two-handed grounds, Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy confirms and intensifies the strong impressions of his previous cds (of Tchaikovsky’s concert in B-flat minor and Kabalewsky’s sonatas). He masters this highly-demanding task thanks to his grippingly independent performance style. His approach is more like that of a chamber musician or conductor than of a virtuoso – He tries to implement the lyrics without allowing the notoriously stubborn independent existence of his fingers to lead the way or even force it on him. And he was successful. From the evil double stop at the opening of the Paganini Variations on, the 38-year-old Saarlander was able to perform the five works, in reversed chronological order, with the perfection and the consequent finishing touches of a superb string quartet. Amazingly well structured, stringent and powerful and without the slightest tendency towards a practised pose. Very well done. Mr Schmitt-Leonardy has enriched the range of Brilliant Classics by a brilliant and masterly performance. (Ingo Harden in FonoForum 08/05 about the recording of the complete variations for piano by Brahms)

Kabalevsky’s music, as compared with Prokofiev’s and Shostakovich’s, remains relatively unknown, perhaps especially where the piano is concerned. With the possible exception of one or two charming and clever pieces for children, it’s unlikely that the average music lover outside the ex-Soviet orbit could name a single one of his piano works. For this, of course, pianists themselves, with recording companies as accessories before and after the fact, are principally to blame. This excellent release is therefore a particularly welcome addition to the catalogue. Schmitt-Leonardy was until now completely unknown to me, but he is a very fine pianist indeed – a natural though never self-indulgent lyricist, a virtuoso to the Russian manner born, but with a Classicist’s sense of proportion, a multi-hued tonal palette which abjures only the ugly, and a propulsive rhythmic vocabulary which keeps you listening every note of the way. The recorded sound, too, is very fine. And the music? Charming, entertaining, atmospheric, superbly crafted, pianistically idiomatic at every turn (Kabalevsky studied the piano with the legendary Alexander Goldenweiser) and often highly dramatic, while never attaining or indeed striving for any great depth, it resembles Prokofiev at his most approachable and least abrasive. A splendid release. (Jeremy Siepmann in BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE)

The entire recording of Brahms’s piano variations was entrusted to Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy - and what a marathon it was! The variations on a theme by Händel, a Hungarian song, a theme by Paganini, on one by Schumann and one by Brahms himself - after all a strong and powerful piano part, during which the composer experiments with meticulousness and sharpens his weapons. The performer excels due to his precise pianistic brilliancy and appropriate attitude, not only during the various eery parts but also in the masterly crests Brahms was climbing here. By all means, these two cds alone (along with our “coup de coeur”) make worth the purchase of the entire box. (Nicolas Southon in PIANO Magazine (F) March/April 2005)

Schmitt-Leonardy gives a spirited and entirely convincing performance that is very much of the “equal partners” school. He is clearly entirely at home with the material and all its much-loved characteristics – displaying glittering finger-work, ruminative introspection, high drama and sweeping romanticism as required. (Rob Maynard in MusicWeb-International on the recording of "RACH5" June 2008)

The magnificent interplay between the piano and orchestra in the final coda is absolutely electric. So much so that unabashed romantics may find the ending of this extraordinary undertaking one of the most thrilling moments in romantic piano concerto literature! Do take a listen and let us know what you think. Put quite simply, the performance is dynamite! Pianist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy's playing is not only filled with explosive displays of virtuosity, but an overriding passion for the music. Conductor Theodore Kuchar and the Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra provide him with such enthusiastic support that one gets the feeling everyone must have been on a high when they made this ( Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com) on the recording of "RACH5" September 2008)