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Legendary Pianist Leon Fleisher to Lead Master Classes

December 4, 2013
Communications Staff

Pianist Leon Fleisher, whose remarkable career was altered by a debilitating hand injury that he overcame some four decades later, will visit the Oberlin campus to lead a pair of master classes with conservatory students on Sunday, December 8.

Six students have been selected to participate in the classes, which will take place from 1-3 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. in Warner Concert Hall. Both classes are free and open to the public.

Fleisher's visit to northeast Ohio includes his Severance Hall conducting debut with The Cleveland Orchestra on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, December 5-7. Fleisher will lead the orchestra in works by Mendelssohn and Beethoven.

Now 85, Fleisher maintains an active and varied schedule that includes engagements as conductor and soloist, recitalist, chamber music artist, and master class mentor.

"You can't see music as it passes through the air," Fleisher has said. "You can't grasp it and hold on to it. You can't smell it. You can't taste it. But it has a most powerful effect on most people. And that is a wondrous thing to contemplate."

After debuting with the New York Philharmonic in 1944, Fleisher became the first American to win the prestigious Queen Elisabeth of Belgium competition eight years later. At the height of his success, he was suddenly struck silent at age 36 with a neurological affliction later identified as focal dystonia, rendering two fingers on his right hand immobile. Rather than end his career, Fleisher began focusing on repertoire for the left hand only, as well as conducting and teaching. Not until some forty years later was he able to return to playing with both hands after undergoing experimental treatments.

A recipient of numerous honors and awards, Fleisher received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in 2007. In 2006, he was the subject of the Oscar and Emmy-nominated documentary film Two Hands. His recent memoir, My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music, which he co-wrote with Washington Post music critic Anne Midgette, is published by Doubleday.

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