“... magical phrase-sculpting ... For his 80th birthday, Fleisher is the one handing out the gifts.”
Pianist and conductor Leon Fleisher accepted the 2007 Kennedy Center Honor at a star-studded gala in Washington DC, where Caroline Kennedy recognized him as “a piano prodigy from the Golden Gate who rose to the heights, embraced adversity and became a musician for all seasons.”
A year of celebratory performances in 2008-2009 commemorating Leon Fleisher’s 80th birthday coincided with the resurgence of his early recordings on Sony Masterworks–regarded as some of the greatest in classical music – among them the complete Beethoven Piano Concertos, which were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame the same year. Fleisher enthralled capacity audiences with performances in New York, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco and internationally in London, Brussels, Lucerne, Singapore, Tokyo, Vancouver and Toronto, re-affirming his place among the legendary pianists and musicians of our time.
His first two-hand performances in over forty years in London, Brussels, and Lucerne and appearances in London, New York and Washington, DC as soloist with the London Philharmonic and Vladimir Jurowksi conducting were hailed as among the most moving and memorable musical events of the season. The Telegraph wrote: "Fleisher has a way of fixing the essence of a piece that reminds me of early Renaissance painters like Giotto. He captures the fleeting grace of a gesture, but in a way that makes it monumental." He has been invited to return to all three cities in 2011 and 2012.
Leon Fleisher's acclaimed Carnegie Hall workshops came to Japan for the first time in the Fall of 2009 and he returned to the famed hall in May 2010 for a chamber music workshop, joined by Yo-Yo Ma and Pamela Frank. As part of his visit to Tokyo, his recital was filmed and subsequently televised by NHK, which is also preparing a documentary on the legendary pianist to be shown in 2010 or 2011. In addition to appearances throughout the U.S. as conductor and soloist, recitalist, chamber music artist, master class mentor and invaluable resource in college and university residencies, Mr. Fleisher will have shared his multiple gifts in Brazil, Ireland, Germany, Great Britain and Tawain and will be a featured artist at the 2010 Aldeburgh Festival. On November 30, 2010, Doubleday will publish Leon Fleisher's memoir written with Washington Post chief music critic Anne Midgette.
Leon Fleisher performed his first solo recital at the age of 8 and was on stage with the New York Philharmonic at 16, noted then by The New York Times as “one of the most gifted of the younger generation of keyboard artists” and by the great conductor Pierre Monteux as the “pianistic find of the century.” At the height of his career, at the age of 36, an accident injured his right hand; over ten months, he developed a condition now called focal dystonia, in which his brain ceased communication with the fourth and fifth fingers of his right hand, striking him silent. His condition baffled medical experts for decades; Fleisher embraced his connection to music, carving out a new career for himself as a gifted teacher, renowned conductor and prolific soloist of the piano repertoire for the left hand. Fleisher was, as the Times noted, “a pianist for whom ‘never’ was never an option.”
Treatments including rolfing and botulinum toxin (botox) injections have helped restore the mobility to Fleisher’s right hand. For several years he has played with both hands again, winning enormous acclaim for his 2004 two-handed recording, aptly titled Two Hands. Fleisher’s story is the subject of the 2006 Oscar-nominated documentary film of the same name, written and directed by Nathaniel Kahn (My Architect), aired on HBO. Leon Fleisher’s “comeback,” wrote Holly Brubach in The New York Times in 2007, “has catapulted him up next to Lance Armstrong as a symbol of the indomitable human spirit and an inspiration to a broader public.”