Leonard Pennario (b.1924) gave his first piano recital at the age of eight. At twelve, he was the last minute replacement for an ailing pianist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Eugene Goossens) in Grieg’s Piano Concerto. His sensational performance of the work launched him on a glorious career. In 1986 Pennario returned to Dallas to celebrate his fiftieth anniversary, playing the Miklos Rósza Piano Concerto. A student of Guy Maier, Olga Steeb, Isabelle Vengerova and Ernst Toch, Pennario has toured the world, playing with virtually every major symphony orchestra and in all the major music centres.
A pianist with a phenomenal technique, Pennario also is a composer of note. Among his best known works is Midnight on the Cliffs (1942) depicting the cliffs of Newport, Rhode Island, which was prominently featured in the 1956 film Julie (starring Louis Jourdan and Doris Day). Among his earliest and most effective transcriptions is the Emperor Waltz, which he recorded in 1952. In his paraphrase of Strauss’s Kaiser Walzer, Op. 437, Pennario manages to transmit the special charm of this waltz, retaining much of the natural flavour of the original, while also creating a piece which is a test of a player’s piano technique.