Leonskaja was born on November 23, 1945, in Tbilisi, Georgia, to Russian parents. She was an exceptionally gifted child, giving her first concert at 11. She studied music at the Moscow Conservatory and, while there, won prizes in several prestigious international competitions, including the Queen Elizabeth, Marguerite Long
, and Enescu
Leonskaja was soon noticed by Richter
and the two developed what would be a lifelong friendship, often appearing together in duet concerts. In 1978 she emigrated to the West, settling in Vienna. Her debut at the 1979 Salzburg Festival was a great triumph, after which she quickly established a reputation that yielded invitations in the next decades from the leading orchestras abroad, including those in New York, Cleveland, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Leipzig, and Hamburg.
Leonskaja's recordings were drawing acclaim as well: her 1992 CD of Brahms
' sonatas won Belgium's prestigious Caecilia Prize. In 1996 Teldec released what would be one of Richter
's last recordings, duet sonatas by Mozart
, with Leonskaja. Richter
died the following year.
In the new century Leonskaja has been very active on the concert scene with numerous appearances at major concert venues. She debuted at Carnegie Hall in November 2006 with Kurt Masur
leading the London Philharmonic Orchestra
in an acclaimed performance of the challenging Prokofiev
Piano Concerto No. 2. Among her later recordings is another highly praised Brahms
CD, this one an MD&G release of piano music from Opp. 116-119.