Fleisher performance set in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Fleisher performance set in Aspen

Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Leon Fleisher

ASPEN – Leon Fleisher, one of the world’s greatest pianists, quips that he was a “kindergarten dropout” when he left school at the age of 5 to study with private tutors at home and spend the rest of his time at the piano. Next week, more than 70 years after his kindergarten days, he will perform in Aspen, this time with his partner and wife, Kathy Jacobson Fleisher.

Leon Fleisher made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1944 with conductor Pierre Monteux, who called him “the pianistic find of the century,” and in 1952 became the first American to win the prestigious Queen Elisabeth competition in Brussels. His appearances and recordings were legendary, and he was named one of the OYAP – Outstanding Young American Pianists – by music critics who coined the acronym whimsically but admiringly. Then, suddenly, after years of intense practicing of 10 and 11 hours a day, Fleisher developed “focal dystonia,” a repetitive stress syndrome that made his right hand unusable, and he was forced to withdraw from the concert stage.

The story of the brilliant career Fleisher built as he came back from that devastating time, conducting, teaching and performing world-wide in piano selections for the left hand, was called “a testament to the life-affirming power of art,” when he was awarded the Kennedy Center honors in 2007.

In that same year, “Two Hands: the Leon Fleisher Story,” a documentary by Nathaniel Kahn, was nominated for an Academy Award for best short subject. Earlier, in 2004, Vanguard had released Fleisher’s first two-handed recording in almost 40 years, “Two Hands.”

Today, still concertizing in halls throughout the world, Fleisher continues to teach (“the best way to learn music,” he says) at the Peabody Conservatory, Curtis Institute, and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Last year he published his memoir, “Nine Lives,” written with Washington Post music critic Anne Midgette. Fleisher will speak about “Nine Lives,” his life and his music at a book signing hosted by Explore Booksellers at 5 p.m. Feb. 21.

In Aspen Fleisher will be performing with his wife and partner, Kathy Jacobson Fleisher, a renowned pianist in her own right, who has performed throughout Europe and Asia. She has toured and recorded alone and with Leon, the two of them having just returned from a tour of Asia, and currently serves on the chamber music faculty at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.

Ms. Jacobson Fleisher is an active supporter of animal rights, and regularly gives benefit concerts for animal rescue organizations.

The duo’s concert, presented by Aspen Winter Music, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22 in the Aspen Chapel. The evening will feature Leon Fleisher playing compositions for the left hand, and the duo playing pieces for four hands on one piano by Bach, Brahms, Schubert and Dvorak.

For more information and to reserve seats, call 544 4871.

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