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Anecdotes

Midnight on the Cliffs story told to me by Leonard in Nov 2005.

When he was a young man, he once visisted Horowitz in New York. He played some Brahms-Paganini Variations for him, and the Great Man reacted favorably. Emboldened by this reception young Leonard volunteered to play one of his own compositions and performed Midnight on the Cliffs.

When it was over Horowitz, (who was always renowned for his amazing technique), said "Hard isn't it?"

Bernstein's "Age of Anxiety"

Here is another example Leonard being recognized as a champion of contemporary composers. In 1968 the BBC arranged for a broadcast performance of Bernstein's "Age of Anxiety". They chose, who else, Pennario to be the pianist. The broadcast also includes an interview with Bernstein talking about the piece. In the interview he mentions that he has added some material for the pianist, in the last movement. His original had the pianist sitting there for 5 minutes with nothing to do, except play one chord at the end. Bernstein says that while this seemed like a good idea originally, he later changed his mind.

I mentioned this to Pennario and he said that Bernstein changed it after Pennario called him up to complain about having nothing to do for 5 minutes except play one chord.

So Leonard was not only the first one to play Age of Anxiety in the UK, he was the first one to play the final version anywhere!

As an aside, Leonard had never seen the broadcast of the piece. He was on tour outside of England when the broadcast occured. Just last year, I arranged for the BBC to make a DVD copy of the original broadcast and send it to Leonard.He was thrilled to finally be able to hear and see the broadcast after all that time

Prokofiev's 3rd Piano Concerto

Not many people know that it was his brother, Joe, who virtually forced Leonard into learning this piece. Joe had heard it, and liked it, and thought that it would suit Leonard. Leonard resisted learning the piece, so every time he was around Joe would play it constantly on the record player. Finally in exasperation, Leonard said, "OK, I will learn it.". Which he did, and programmed it with great success. I think that even Leonard was surprised at how well received his performances were.

A Left Handed Compliment

Leonard used to like to tell me this story.

Once when performing in Beijing, probably in the 60's, he met an official of the chinese government. After shaking hands the official examined Pennario's hands and said, in what I am sure was intended as a compliment, "These hands have never worked a day in their life!"

Phil Leon's Eulogy

Phil Leon's Eulogy contains several Pennario vignettes. See here.

Playing with Jascha Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky

Leonard is often quoted as saying that performing with these two outstanding musicians was the highlight of his professional career.

I asked him once how it came to pass that he played with Heifetz and Piatigorsky, and he told me that Jascha had called him over to his house for an audition! Leonard played, and they made no particular comment. A couple of days later Jascha called and told him he had gotten the job.

Leonard and Jascha became good friends, and after Jascha retired Leonard would often go over to his place to play gin.

Leonard told me that with anyone else he would have insisted on bridge, but for Jascha he would play gin.

Buffalo Music Hall of Fame

Leonard was born in Buffalo New York, and did not move to LA until 1934.

In late 2006, I was contacted, via this web site, by one of the selection committee for the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame . Based on the web site she thought that Leonard would qualify for the BMHF. She wanted to know how to contact Leonard regarding the possibility of inducting him. I gave Leonard the glowing references to which he was entitled. The committee contacted Leonard, and a short time later they met and inducted Leonard into the 2007 class. This meant a lot to Leonard and so even though he was quite ill at the time, he journeyed to Buffalo to be present at the ceremony. While there he met Mary Kunz-Goldman, an arts critic writer for the Buffalo News who was so taken with Leonard and his story that she decided to write his biography. His friends and brother had been after Leonard for years to write his memoirs, but he had always declined. But Mary is made of sterner stuff obviously; and she moved to San Diego for 6 months and spent several hours a day getting Leonard to talk into a tape recorder. Just in the nick of time as it turns out because Leonard had only a few more months to live at that point.