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Leon Fleisher

Leon Fleisher

Leon Fleisher


Leon Fleisher (born July 23, 1928) is an American pianist and conductor. He was born in San Francisco, California, where he started studying the piano at age 4. He made his public debut at age 8 and played with the New York Philharmonic under Pierre Monteux at 16; Monteux famously called him "the pianistic find of the century." He became one of the few child virtuosos to be accepted for study with Artur Schnabel. He made a memorable series of recordings Read more on Last.fm
Leon Fleisher (born July 23, 1928) is an American pianist and conductor. He was born in San Francisco, California, where he started studying the piano at age 4. He made his public debut at age 8 and played with the New York Philharmonic under Pierre Monteux at 16; Monteux famously called him "the pianistic find of the century." He became one of the few child virtuosos to be accepted for study with Artur Schnabel. He made a memorable series of recordings with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra before losing the use of his right hand due to focal dystonia. He continued performing the left-handed repertoire until he quite recently regained the use of his right hand through a combination of massage and botox injections. He also undertook conducting during this time, serving at one time as Music Director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in Maryland.

He is particularly well-known for his interpretations of the piano concerti of Brahms and Beethoven. In 2004, Vanguard Classics released Leon Fleisher's first "two-handed" recording in over 40 years, entitled "Two Hands", to critical acclaim. "Two Hands" is also the title of a short documentary on Fleisher by Nathaniel Kahn which was nominated for an Academy Award for best short subject on January 23, 2007. Fleisher received the 2007 Kennedy Center Honors.

Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen A. Schwarzman described him as "a consummate musician whose career is a moving testament to the life-affirming power of art." Fleisher's musical interests extend beyond the central German Romantic repertory. The American composer William Bolcom composed his Concerto for Two Pianos, Left Hand for Fleisher and his close friend Gary Graffman, who has also suffered from debilitating problems with his right hand. It received its first performance in Baltimore in April 1996.

The concerto is constructed in such a way that it can be performed in one of three ways, with either piano part alone with reduced orchestra, or with both piano parts and the two reduced orchestras combined into a full orchestra. In 2004, Leon Fleisher played the world premiere of Paul Hindemith's Klaviermusik (Piano Concerto for the Left Hand), Op. 29, with the Berlin Philharmonic. This work was written in 1923, for Paul Wittgenstein, but he did not understand it and refused to play it. However, he had sole performing rights, and he kept the score, not allowing any other pianists to play it.

The manuscript was discovered among his papers after the death of his widow in 2002. On 2 October 2005, Fleisher played the American premiere of the work, with the San Francisco Symphony under Herbert Blomstedt. He has continued to be involved in music, both conducting and teaching at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, the Curtis Institute of Music, and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto; he is also closely associated with the Tanglewood Music Center. As a teacher, Fleisher has carried on a tradition that descends directly from Beethoven himself, handed down generationally through Carl Czerny, Theodor Leschetizky, Artur Schnabel, Fleisher himself, and then to hundreds of Fleisher's own piano students over nearly half a century. His influence on classical pianists of the current day, especially in North America, is enormous.

Today his students are among piano faculty members at major music schools. Also among his students are such renowned concert pianists as Jonathan Biss, Yefim Bronfman, Jeffrey Chappell, Naida Cole, Stewart Goodyear, Enrique Graf, Helene Grimaud, Lorin Hollander, Bonnie Kellert, Kevin Kenner, Michael Lewin, Konstantin Lifschitz, Louis Lortie, Danielle Martin, Oliver Schnyder, Ana-Maria Vera, André Watts, Daniel Wnukowski, and Michael Sheppard. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..

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