31 March, 2005

Pianist Leon Fleisher

Mozart's Concerto No. 12 in A Major for Piano and Orchestra played by pianist Leon Fleisher was on the playbill for the last symphony date hubby and I attended. Fleisher, now aged 77, has a fascinating story which testifies to perserverence in the face of adversity over one's lifetime.
Maestro Fleisher noticed problems with the pinky of his right hand even as early as the age of 16. His diagnosis of dystonia, which flared and raged most at the pinnacle of his career, at age 35, and the loss of movement not only affected his performance career but also proved to be a serious impediment on everyday tasks -- from combing his hair and brushing his teeth to writing. It had a detrimental affect on his mental state and his familylife. He was only 37 years old when he was forced to retire from the stage.
Maestro Fleisher was already one of the greatest pianists of the time. Over the 30 years after he left the stage in 1965, he tried seemingly every medical and psychiatric treatment that held a glimmer of hope. Fleisher devoted himself to his teaching and conducting and shied away from the word “comeback”. He issued two new recordings of works for the left hand in 1994, both of which received Grammy nominations. Then in 1995, after 30 years of trying everything and anything that might allow him to perform again two-handed (including accupuncture and Rolfing, which finally worked) with the Cleveland Orchestra. He played the Mozart Concerto in A Major, K. 414. He now continues to perform his famous "left-hand repertoire" and select works for two hands.
I was inspried by this man's story and of his persistence. He played the Mozart concerto deliberately...purposefully, with an air of peaceful confidence, as only a *master* of the piano could do. One can tell that he doesn't have the same reach of hand or flair over the length of the ivories as other famous pianists who are more poised, even cocky with their craft. Maerstro Fleisher showed a calm confidence and certainty of his years with the piano. Others tend to rush through a piece; flaunting their talent passionately, even flailing their arms about. Not so with Maestro Fleisher.

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