LIBERACE: 16 BIGGEST HITS
There is no denying that Lee Liberace was one of the world's greatest entertainers. This CD celebrates his artistry.
Wlasdziu Valentino Liberace was born in 1919 in Wisconsin. His father was a french horn player in various bands and introduced music not only to Liberace but his two brothers and sister. By four he was playing piano competently and strictly by ear. By eight he was playing very complicated pieces and was inspired by the meeting of his idol, the great Polish pianist, Paderewski. They eventually became good friends. During the 1930s, “Liberace” (he by that time had dropped his first two names), was honing his piano technique and playing at any venue he could, from nightclubs to weddings and even strip clubs. In 1941 he became a featured soloist with the Chicago Symphony. Throughout the ’40s he worked on his stage presence, always trying to connect to his audience in a more intimate way.
Long before, he had realized a strictly classical repertoire was not going to sustain an act like his, so his mixing of some classical with popular tunes (which he preferred anyway), became a magic formula.
When the 1950s arrived, Liberace jumped into the new medium of television. He was a natural — his gaze always straight ahead in the camera. And he was always smiling. He dressed impeccably, usually in a tuxedo with tails, and reinforced the elegance with a candelabra on his piano — which became a trademark. He always played without sheet music, and his fingers danced across the keys with deceptive ease. He often added little visual embellishments, like the exaggerated lifting of his arms when playing certain passages — a testimony not only to his muscle tone but skill in landing his hands on the right keys! Later he became known for his flashy stage costumes (which inspired Elvis), including sequins, furs, multiple rings on his fingers, etc. He even arrived at some performances flying over the audience on guy wires. He pioneered the use of colored sprays of water dancing in the background to his music. Despite his flamboyance, in private he loved to cook for friends he entertained at parties at his lavish homes, and gave generous gifts.
As this wonderful CD, “Liberace: 16 Biggest Hits,” will prove, at heart he was an outstanding musician. These tracks were drawn from his Columbia years and are among his earliest recordings, from 1952 to 1956. Yet the sound quality is impeccable. There is a great mixture here, ranging from Rachmaninoff’s “18th Variation: Rhapsody On a Theme of Paganini,” to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or “Chopin’s “Nocture #2 in E-Flat Major, Opus 8.” These are co-mingled with fun songs like the “Beer Barrel Polka,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and the best version of “Chopsticks” you've ever heard. ‘El Cumbanchero” is a great dance song. Lee also demonstrates his fine singing voice on a sentimental favorite, “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
TO HEAR SAMPLES FROM THIS CD, CLICK HERE.