Leon Fleisher 1928-2020

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JohnA

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Aug 3, 2020, 9:14:03 AM8/3/20
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https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53633336

Leon Fleisher: Pianist who battled hand condition dies at 92

Renowned American pianist Leon Fleisher has died from cancer, aged 92.

Fleisher rose to prominence as a child prodigy in the 1940s but his playing career was disrupted by an injury to his right hand.

He later channelled his career into conducting, teaching and mastering the left-hand repertoire for piano.

Three decades later, after a series of therapies, he regained use of his right hand and flourished again with a two-handed career comeback.

Fleisher was born in San Francisco in 1928, to parents who emigrated to the US from Eastern Europe.

He began learning the piano at age four, and by the age of nine he was invited to be a student of famous classical pianist Artur Schnabel.

At 16 he made his debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and went on to international fame and a prolific recording career.

But in 1964 Fleisher developed a neurological condition, focal dystonia, which left him unable to play with his right hand.

After a two-year hiatus, he focused his career on teaching and conducting at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, and on performing music written for the left hand only.

"I suddenly came to the realisation that my connection with music was greater than just as a two-handed piano player," he told National Public Radio during an interview in 2000.

He returned to two-handed playing in 1995 and went on to record two highly acclaimed albums. One of them, called Two Hands, is also the title of an Oscar-nominated documentary about his life.

-30-

drh8h

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Aug 3, 2020, 11:15:17 AM8/3/20
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He lived a long and sometimes fraught life and left some outstanding performances to posterity. Almost certainly he will be best remembered for his collaborations with George Szell.

DH

Bob Harper

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Aug 3, 2020, 11:47:43 AM8/3/20
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Yes. The Beethoven Concerti and the Mozart 25th with Szell are Desert
Island Discs for me. I have not heard the late Mozart concerto recordings.

Bob Harper

Mr. Mike

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Aug 3, 2020, 12:35:51 PM8/3/20
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Documentary about Fleisher, "Two Hands" is available here:

https://vimeo.com/6684412

Henk vT

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Aug 3, 2020, 3:05:47 PM8/3/20
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I clearly remember him winning the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 1952. He performed a memorable Brahms # 1. Since then one of my favorite concertos.

Henk

Oscar

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Aug 3, 2020, 3:20:27 PM8/3/20
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Rest in peace, Sir. I really enjoyed his 2014 album on Bridge, All The Things You Are. I've listened to it countless times since buying the CD in 2014. Bach/Brahms, Kirchner, Earl Wild, Perle, Mompou, Diane Boston, Kern. And it appears I am not alone: I just found this review by the estimable Alex Ross in The New Yorker:

"The Fleisher disk is the one I’ve listened to the most, nearly to the point of obsession. At the age of eighty-six, the pianist remains a musician of magisterial powers; this CD, containing music of Bach, Perle, Federico Mompou, Leon Kirchner, Dina Koston, George Gershwin, and Jerome Kern, is one of his finest hours on record." -- Alex Ross, The New Yorker, Sept. 8, 2014.

http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=1463131

Mandryka

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Aug 3, 2020, 4:44:04 PM8/3/20
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I saw him just once, in London. I didn’t know much about piano music at the time and I didn’t know he couldn’t use his right hand. He started to play the Bach/Brahms chaconne - again I didn’t know it existed, I was aware of the Busoni and I just assumed that that’s what it must be. And then suddenly, I noticed that he was just using his left hand. My jaw dropped - something I’ll never forget.

That’s all I can remember of the concert - apart from the fact that I enjoyed it.

markm...@gmail.com

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Aug 4, 2020, 10:45:00 AM8/4/20
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I went to lunch with Fleisher when he was in Dallas about 20 years ago for a Dallas Symphony gig. He told us Szell, believe it or not, had a sense of humor, but it was on the sadistic side. Just before the first rehearsal for the Brahms Second Piano Concerto, Szell called Fleisher and the principal horn into his office. He asked the horn player if he could play the opening solo in B-natural instead of B-flat, and the player said he could. Then he asked Fleisher if he could play his opening responses to the horn solo in B-natural too, and Fleisher said he could. The rehearsal began that way, and when the full orchestra came in it was a train wreck. Szell broke out into hysterical laughter at his little joke.

Mark M

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Henk vT

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Aug 6, 2020, 3:38:00 AM8/6/20
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> Henk, you seem to harbor strong
> bias in favor of Queen Elisabeth
> winners -- who by and large lean
> towards the blandissimo end of
> the pianistic spectrum.

If you had written preference instead of bias and natural instead of blandissimo, I would have agreed. I find it increasingly hard to listen to pianists who are trying, as it were, to squeeze the last drop of blood out of the piece they are playing - in terms of tempi, dynamics, or interpretation.

> So sad!

<g> In a way it is. Beatrice Rana is a clear example of a pianist whom I admire for her creativity and phenomenal pianistic talent, but who I often find very hard to listen to.

Henk

Frank Berger

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Aug 6, 2020, 8:57:42 AM8/6/20
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"Bias" is often used when "preference" is meant. Especially
when the writer wants to bias what he is writing. Good point.

drh8h

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Aug 6, 2020, 11:43:56 AM8/6/20
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On Wednesday, August 5, 2020 at 5:06:55 PM UTC-4, dk wrote:
> On Monday, August 3, 2020 at 8:47:43 AM UTC-7, Bob Harper wrote:
> >
> > Yes. The Beethoven Concerti and the Mozart
> > 25th with Szell are Desert Island Discs for
> > me. I have not heard the late Mozart concerto
> > recordings.
> >
> > Bob Harper
>
> They will definitely keep the island
> desert for you. I will never visit
> your Szellish island if you keep
> such recordings! ;-)
>
> dk

Oh, I think George was on his best behavior when he made those! Now, the recordings with Gilels definitely show him as an "Old Grump," which is I believe how one critic described his conducting. That said, I hold a slightly heretical view that the spark in the LvB 4 was not quite duplicated in the subsequent concertos, made, I believe two years later. They are still outstanding, though.

DH

Bob Harper

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Aug 6, 2020, 6:24:12 PM8/6/20
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On 8/5/20 2:06 PM, dk wrote:
> On Monday, August 3, 2020 at 8:47:43 AM UTC-7, Bob Harper wrote:
>>
>> Yes. The Beethoven Concerti and the Mozart
>> 25th with Szell are Desert Island Discs for
>> me. I have not heard the late Mozart concerto
>> recordings.
>>
>> Bob Harper
>
> They will definitely keep the island
> desert for you. I will never visit
> your Szellish island if you keep
> such recordings! ;-)
>
> dk
>
De gustibus, Dan, de gustibus.

Bob Harper

AB

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Aug 10, 2020, 1:56:04 PM8/10/20
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just heard Brahms PC 1, Fleisher. Impressive but at times a bit harsh. But. the oboe and especially horn solos are incredibly beautiful.
AB

Not a Dentist

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Aug 10, 2020, 3:14:28 PM8/10/20
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The two Brahms, plus Schumann, Grieg, et al. aren't bad either!

gggg gggg

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Aug 1, 2021, 1:22:57 AMAug 1
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(Recent Y. upload):

"Music isn't math. It's physics." | Leon Fleisher on Brahms B-flat Concerto (ft. Rachel Kudo)
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