Leon Fleisher, pianist, teacher, conductor, was one of the great musicians of our time. It was my privilege to collaborate with him on his memoir, get to ask him anything, and perhaps most memorably, watch him teach, which felt like having music's secrets unlocked. Here are a few pieces about him and the book.
Leon Fleisher, sublime pianist, dies at 92: obituary by Anne Midgette in the Washington Post.
An excerpt of "My Nine Lives," Fleisher's memoir co-authored by Anne Midgette, that appeared in the Washington Post before the book's 2010 release.
"Remembering a musical giant:" Tom Hall, on WYPR Radio in Baltimore, hosts me and former Fleisher students in a memorial show.
In which I speak to the Washington Post Express about Fleisher in 2011.
Diane Rehm, on her signature NPR show, spoke to Leon and me in 2010.
The memoir is still available on Amazon;; here's the link.
An interview with two of Leon's children, Deborah and Julian Fleisher, and me about Leon's life and legacy.
Leon Fleisher was in the thick of a major international solo career when the onset of what was ultimately diagnosed as focal dystonia in his right hand brought everything to a crashing halt in the mid-1960s. In 1982, Fleisher regained enough use of his right hand to think he was ready for a two-handed comeback. But as the opening concert in Baltimore approached, it became clear to him that his hand wasn't really ready, and that beyond that one evening, the comeback wasn't really going to happen.
In his memoir, he described the encore documented in this video, which came at the end of an emotionally wrenching night: "I picked something that... had been a staple of my childhood: the Chopin Nocturne in D-flat, Op. 27, no. 2. It was my mother's favorite piece. It's one of Chopin's beautiful, limpid melodies.... It may never have been surrounded by such feeling as I had that night, as I fought my fingers and spun out the crystalline lines, falling across the keys like tears. But the beauty was tinged with almost unbearable pain.... Everyone was eager to celebrate with me the return of the gift I wasn't actually going to get." (From My Nine Lives, by Leon Fleisher and Anne Midgette.)
Leon ultimately did make a two-handed comeback, some 12 years later, and was able to play intermittently with both hands, in addition to his left-hand performances and his active teaching schedule, virtually until his death.