Pianist Leon Fleisher thrived as a conductor and soloist, recitalist, chamber music artist, and master class mentor. He made his debut with the New York Philharmonic in 1944 and in 1952 became the first American to win the prestigious Queen Elisabeth of Belgium competition, establishing himself as one of the world’s premier classical pianists. At the height of his success, he was suddenly struck 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, Mr. Fleisher began focusing on repertoire for the left hand only, conducting, and teaching. In the mid-90’s he able to return to playing with both hands after experimental treatments using a regimen of Rolfing and 'botulinum toxin' injections.
A recipient of numerous honors and awards, he received the honor of Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters by the Minister of Culture of the French government as well as the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007 and is the subject of the 2006 Oscar and Emmy-nominated documentary film Two Hands. In 2013, Sony Classical issued a 23-CD box set of his entire recorded output, and in 2014, Mr. Fleisher released his first solo CD in a decade, the Grammy-nominated "All The Things You Are.” At age 88, in addition to his teaching at Peabody, Mr. Fleisher continued with an international schedule of master classes, performances, and orchestral guest conducting.
In celebration of his 90th year, he appeared in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal as soloist with the Toronto Symphony and Peter Oundjian and at the Gilmore Festival. In 2018-2019 he continued the celebration with recitals at Carnegie Hall, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, as well as at the Ravinia and Tanglewood Festivals in Summer 2018. With his passing in the summer of 2020, Leon Fleisher shares with us his legacy – a story of transcendence, struggle, reinvention, and fulfillment.