Leon Fleisher’s ‘Nine Lives’

Leon Fleisher made many memorable recordings on piano with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra.(Photo: Piano Piano!)
Leon Fleisher made many memorable recordings on piano with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra.(Photo: Piano Piano!)

Pianist and conductor Leon Fleisher is co-author of a new memoir with Anne Midgette called My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music.

I’ve written before about how artists autobiographies are often who did what to me and aren’t I the hero. This book is an exception.

A lot has happened to Leon Fleisher. He was nine years old when he began studying with Arthur Schnabel. He made his debut with the New York Philharmonic at 16. He was adored by George Szell — not known to be adorable himself — and a series of great recordings with the Cleveland Orchestra ensued.

At age thirty-six, Fleisher lost the use of his right hand, due to focal dystonia. The artist continued his career as a pianist with a left hand repertoire.

Eventually, Fleisher resumed two hand piano performances. In 2006, he gave a triumphant Carnegie Hall recital with both hands.

He has also been on the faculty of Baltimore’s Peabody Institute for many years. Do you think you could get in? A life time ago, I did not.

Nine lives? Twenty-nine lives, more like it. This book is also a terrific, hard-to-put-down read and would make a great gift for any music lover.

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