Eugene Istomin's concerto repertoire includes 26 works.

It is amazing to note that as early as 1946, when he was not yet 21 years old, he was already playing the concertos which would remain at the core of his repertoire throughout his career. (Beethoven 4 & 5, Brahms 2, Chopin 2, Mozart 9).

Istomin dirigé par Casals à Prades en 1953

Istomin run by Casals in Prades in 1953

Most pianists of his generation had chosen to establish their reputation with splashy concertos (Rachmaninov 2 and 3, Prokofiev 2 and 3, Tchaikovsky 1, Khachaturian), but Istomin refused to follow the same route, despite the fact that his virtuosity and Russian origins (which have always been a very effective advertising argument in the United States!) would have guaranteed him an instant success. Due to his temperament and idealism, he felt that he should immediately turn to the highest peaks of the repertoire. He felt a particular affinity for the Beethoven Fourth Concerto and the Brahms Second, and decided to perform them in his first concerts in New York without breaking them in first in less-exposed cities.

This choice proved to be detrimental to the development of Istomin’s career and image. Critics were so convinced that these concertos should not be approached until an advanced age that they could not trust their own ears, and were unable to prevent themselves from writing that the young pianist’s performances lacked maturity!

Once Istomin was in his thirties and had become renowned for his performances of the Beethoven and Brahms concertos, he took malicious pleasure in playing and recording the Rachmaninoff Second Concerto and the Tchaikovsky First. His concerts and recordings of both concertos were received with great acclaim, but he soon abandoned them in order to devote himself almost entirely to the works of his beloved great German composers.

He only deviated from them for three works which he thought deserved to be better known and loved: the Symphonie Concertante by Szymanowski, the Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 4, and Leon Kirchner’s 1st Concerto. Unfortunately, the extremely conventional programming of the major American orchestras did not allow him to play them often.

The concerto with which he identified most and which best personifies him is the Beethoven Fourth: “For me, it is one of the absolute masterpieces of human creation. It is the concerto I have played most often throughout my career, perhaps five hundred times. It is also the one in which I have the strongest feeling that I have something very personal to say.” He performed it about 400 times.

J.S. BACH

Concerto in D minor BWV 1052: 1944 – 1945

Official recording : 1950 Columbia
Live recording : Casals Festival Orchestra of Puerto Rico. John Wummer, Alexander Schneider, violin and direction. Puerto Rico. June 13, 1972.

Concerto in D minor BWV 1052: 1944 – 1945

Official recording: 1945 Columbia

Concerto for 2 Pianos in C Major BWV 1061: 1944 – 1974

Live recording : Orchestre de Nice-Côte d’Azur, Jean-Bernard Pommier. May, 31, 1974.

Concerto for 3 Pianos in C Major BWV 1064: 1971 – 1976

Live recordings :

  • Casals Festival Orchestra of Puerto Rico. M. Horszowski, R. Serkin. Pablo Casals. New York, United Nations. October 24 1971.
  • Youth Casals Festival Orchestra of Puerto Rico. M. Horszowski, R. Serkin. Alexander Schneider. June 14, 1976.

Concerto for 4 Pianos in A Minor BWV 1065 : 1962

BEETHOVEN

Concerto No. 3 in C Minor Op. 37: 1965 – 2000

Studio recording : Budapest Symphony Orchestra. Jean-Bernard Pommier. 2000. Unissued.
Live recordings :
1. Orchestre Philharmonique de l’ORTF, Ottavio Ziino. December 19, 1967.
2. Casals Festival Orchestra of Puerto Rico, Alexander Schneider. May 31, 1970.
3. Detroit Symphony, Sixten Ehrling. July 20, 1978.
4. New York Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta. May 22, 1980.
5. RAI Torino. October 29, 1987.

Concerto No. 4 in G Major Op. 58: 1943 à 1997

Official recording : 1968 Columbia
Live recordings :
1. New York Philharmonic, Artur Rodzinski. Carnegie Hall. December 10, 1944.
2. National Orchestral Association. Léon Barzin. April 8, 1945.
3. Pittsburgh Symphony, Paul Paray. February 12 or 14, 1950.
4. Los Angeles Philharmonic, Alfred Wallenstein. 1952. (only the 1st movement still exists)
5. Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy. December 18 or 19, 1953.
6. Chicago Symphony, Fritz Reiner. November 28, 1957.
7. Chicago Symphony, André Vandernoot. February 19, 1963. Filmed concert (including an encore by Mendelssohn and an interview).
8. Warsaw National Philharmonic. Paul Kletzki. September 10, 1963.
9. Detroit Symphony, Paul Paray. January 28 or 30, 1965.
10. Philadelphia Orchestra, Lorin Maazel. December 1966.
11. New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein. October 1968.
12. Detroit Symphony, Sixten Ehrling. January 2 or 4, 1969.
13. Philadelphia Orchestra. Eugene Ormandy. Saratoga. July 30, 1970.
14. Cleveland Orchestra, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. July 21, 1972.
15. Orchestre de Nice-Côte d’Azur, Jean-Bernard Pommier. May 31, 1974.
16. Orchestre National de l’ORTF, Paul Capolongo. June 26, 1974.
17. Philadelphia Orchestra, Sixteen Erhling. July 25, 1987.
18. NDR Simphonieorchester, Vladimir Fedosseiev. June 12 or 13, 1988.
19. National Symphony, Mstislav Rostropovitch. Puerto Rico. June 18, 1988. Filmed concert.

Concerto No. 5 in E flat Major Op. 73 “Emperor”: 1946 – 1996

Official recording : 1957 Columbia.
Live recordings :
1. New York Philharmonic, Dimitri Mitropoulos. March 1957
2. Boston Symphony, Charles Munch. August 8, 1958.
3. Casals Festival Orchestra of Puerto Rico, Juan-Jose Castro. May 13, 1962
4. Casals Festival Orchestra of Puerto Rico. June 8, 1975
5. National Philharmonic of Varsovia, Jerzy Semkow. June 18, 1976.
6. London Symphony Orchestra, Eduardo Mata. November 10 or 11, 1976
7. Detroit Symphony, Klaus Tennstedt. February 2, 1978.
8. Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy. May 17, 1983.

Triple Concerto in C Major Op. 56: 1962 – 1977 (always with Stern and Rose)

Official recording : 1964 Columbia
Live recordings:
1. Warsaw National Philharmonic. Paul Kletzki. September 10, 1963
2. Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell. April 14, 15 or 16, 1966
3. Casals Festival Orchestra of Puerto Rico. Pablo Casals. May 31, 1970. Filmed concert.
4. Philadelphia Orchestra. Eugene Ormandy. July 30, 1970

BRAHMS

Concerto No. 2 in B flat Major Op. 83: 1943 – 1990

Official recording : 1965 Columbia
Live recordings :
• New York Philharmonic, Arthur Rodzinski. November 21, 1943.
• Casals Festival Orchestra of Puerto Rico. Alexander Schneider. May 8, 1958.
• Boston Symphony Orchestra, Charles Munch. January 14, 1961.
• Orchestre National de l’ORTF, Paul Kletzki. May 11, 1965.
• Orchestre National de France, Jean-Bernard Pommier. March 5, 1980
• Houston Symphony Orchestra, Sergiu Comissiona. September 13, 1980

BUSCH Adolf (1891-1952)

Seven Spirituals for Chamber Orchestra with Piano Op. 58d: 1945

CHOPIN

Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise in B flat Major Op. 22: 1946

Concerto No. 2 in F minor Op. 21: 1943 à 1983

Official recording : 1959 Columbia
Live recordings :
• New York Philharmonic, George Szell. March 7, 1948.
• Cleveland Orchestra, André Previn. July 16, 1970.
• Detroit Symphony, Charles Mackerras. October 12 or 13, 1972.
• Toronto Symphony, Donald Johanos. November 18, 1972.
• Orchestre National de l’ORTF, Paul Capolongo. June 26, 1974.

KIRCHNER Leon (1919-2009)

Piano Concerto No. 1: 1959 and 1960.

MOZART

Concerto No. 9 in E flat Major K. 271: 1945 – 2000

Studio recording : Budapest Symphony Orchestra. Jean-Bernard Pommier. June 2000, unissued.

Live recordings :

  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Edouard van Remoortel. August 5, 1958
  • Orchestre de Chambre de l’ORTF, Alexander Schneider. January 28, 1972. Another performance of this concerto was filmed in studio.

Concerto No. 12 in A Major K. 414: 1945

Concerto No. 14 in E flat Major K. 449: 1943 – 1975

Official recording: 1951 Columbia
Live recordings :

  • Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell. April 14, 15 or 16, 1966.
  • Orchestre de Chambre de l’ORTF, Alexander Schneider. January 28, 1972. Another performance of this concerto was filmed in studio.
  • Israel Chamber Orchestra, Gary Bertini.

Concerto No. 21 in C Major K. 467: 1977 – 1997

Official recording : 1995 Reference Recordings
Live recording: Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique, Emmanuel Krivine. June 29, 1977.

Concerto No. 24 in C minor K. 491: 1965 – 1995

Official recording : 1995 Reference Recordings
Live recording: Philadelphia Orchestra, Ormandy. September 30, 1976.

Concerto for 2 Pianos in E flat Major K. 365: 1945 – 1978

Live recording :

  • Orchestre de Chambre de l’ORTF, Alexander Schneider. Jean-Bernard Pommier. February 4, 1972. Another performance of this concerto was filmed in studio.
  • Casals Festival Orchestra of Puerto Rico, Alexander Schneider. June 13, 1972.

PARAY

Fantaisie pour piano et orchestre: 2000

Studio recording : Budapest Symphony Orchestra. Jean-Bernard Pommier. 2000 (private CD).

RACHMANINOFF

Concerto No. 2 in C Minor Op. 18: 1956 – 1962

Official recording : 1956 Columbia
Live recording : Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy. April 7 or 8, 1961

Concerto No. 3 in D Minor Op. 30: 1944

Concerto No. 4 in G Minor Op. 40: 1983

SCHUMANN

Concerto in A Minor Op. 54: 1957 – 1978

Official recording : 1960 Columbia.
Live recordings :
• Boston Symphony Orchestra. Charles Munch. February 13, 1959.
• Casals Festival Orchestra of Puerto Rico. Alexander Schneider. May 1, 1959. Filmed concert.
• Detroit Symphony. Werner Tornakowski. January 19 or 21, 1961.
• Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy. March 22 or 23, 1974.
• Philadelphia Orchestra, Sergiu Comissiona. Saratoga. August 2, 1974.

SZYMANOWSKI

Symphonie Concertante for Piano and Orchestra Op. 60: 1965 – 1973

Live recording : Cleveland Orchestra, Stanislas Skrowaczewski. July 27, 1973.

TCHAIKOVSKY

Concerto No. 1 in B Flat minor Op. 23 : 1959 – 1963. 1980

Official recording : 1959 Columbia.
Live recordings :
• Detroit Symphony, Paul Paray. October 11 or 13, 1962.
• Philadelphia Orchestra. Eugene Ormandy. August 7, 1980.
• Philadelphia Orchestra. Eugene Ormandy. September 26 or 27,1980.