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Leonard Pennario and Miklós Rózsa.

Miklos Rozsa & Leonard Pennario

Leonard and Miklós were both based in Hollywood and both had a strong interest in film. At some point they became good friends. Leonard called him, "Micki".

Here you will find some material on their joint artistic endeavours. I am indebted to the Miklós Rózsa Society (MRS) and their web site for much of this material.

Piano Quintet Op. 2

Miklós Rózsa composed this as a 21 year old. Leonard recorded it with Endre Granat, Sheldon Sanov, Milton Thomas, and Nathaniel Rosen for the Orion label. The album was recorded under the composer's supervision.

Miklos Rozsa & Leonard Pennario


Piano Sonata Op. 20

Miklós Rózsa composed this sonata for a USC friend of his John Crown in 1948. Leonard however was the first to record it on the Contemporary Sonatas LP in 1957. It was re-released as part of the Leonard Pennario The Early Years 4 CD set.

Piano Concerto Op. 31

Rózsa composed this sonata as a gift for Leonard. It had its premiere with Pennario as the soloist, and Zubin Mehta as the conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic in 1967. In this TV interview (audio only) on the occasion of his performing the work with the Milwaukee Symphony, Leonard explains how it happened that 'Micki', as he called him, came to write the concerto. Here is a review of that performance. The MRS society also has some live recordings of Leonard playing the concerto with Rózsa conducting the Honolulu Symphony in 1967 and the Philadelphia Symphony in 1968.

Spellbound Concerto

To quote from the liner notes of one of the LP's on which this work appeared: The "Spellbound Concerto", dedicated to Leonard Pennario, is an adaptation by the composer, Miklós Rózsa, of his brilliantly haunting score for the motion picture "Spellbound" which starred Ingrid Bergmman and Gregory Peck in an Alfred Hitchcock romp of romance with menace. Miklós Rózsa, a distinguished composer of film music, ("Quo Vadis", "Ben-Hur", "El Cid"), to name a few, received great acclaim for his "Spellbound" score. In this concerto form, the music is given renewed freshness and excitement. Here is a picture of the cover page of the Concerto where Rózsa has dedicated it to Pennario in 1946.

Hollywood Bowl Concerts

Rózsa was a fine conductor and with his LA base was often asked to conduct the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Leonard participated in several of these concerts and some of the pieces were recorded. See here.

Leonard Playing at Rózsa's Memorial Service

The following is a quote from the Miklós Rózsa society web site:

Of all the fine soloists who collaborated with MR, I think that Leonard Pennario was the one who really played the role of composer's advocate to the hilt. He was not the first performer of Opus 20 Sonata. John Crown had that honor as the dedicatee. But Pennario made the work his own in performances that still dazzle. His 1956 Capitol recording, coupled with a Bartók sonata, set the standard for years to come. Some consider that it has never been surpassed.

MR wrote the Opus 31 Concerto as a gift for Pennario, who gave the world premiere in Los Angeles (1967) and also played the work in Houston (with Andre Previn conducting), Honolulu, Milwaukee, Dallas, and New York, among other cities. Most memorable in my own mind is the September 1968 concert with MR himself conducting the great Philadelphia Orchestra, fortunately preserved on tape. Pennario also made the first commercial recording for Pantheon. It is a fine reading but never quite captures the fire of his best live performances.

Pennario also had great success with the Spellbound Concerto, and his Hollywood Bowl recording has been a staple of the Capitol-EMI catalog for decades. Though Pennario started to withdraw from active concertizing in the 1980s, he still made some important recordings. (His Gottschalk program was well received.) And his skills were very much in evidence at the Rózsa memorial service in 1995, when Pennario brought the audience to his feet with his solo abridgement of the Spellbound Concerto..

I never had the honor of meeting Leonard Pennario. (In Philadelphia I just about stumbled over him and Eugene Ormandy in my eagerness to meet MR for the first time.) But even from afar I gained a clear sense of a devoted musician who was deeply grateful for the wonderful music that the composer had created for him. And in the same sense I am grateful to LP for his long-standing advocacy of Rózsa. Happily the pianist lived to see the CD issue of his early recordings, including the Rózsa Sonata, on MSR Classics: Leonard Pennario: The Early Years, 1950-1958. The bargain-priced set contains four discs and makes a fitting memorial to a fine artist .