podcast riley

Leon Fleisher's Epic Comeback

Aug. 3, 2007


Musicians revere pianist Leon Fleisher for his early concerto recordings with conductor George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra in the late 1950s: his Beethoven cycle is still a marvel and still in print. But where Beethoven was robbed of his hearing, Fleisher was robbed of his fingers: in the early 1960s, right as he was preparing for a major tour, he contracted a rare neurological condition called focal dystonia, which curved and stiffened the fourth and fifth fingers of his right hand and forced him into early retirement. Over the past five years, however, Fleisher has returned to the two-hand repertoire due to some breakthrough treatment, including botox injections and rolfing muscle therapy. On August 2, HBO will broadcast an Oscar-nominated documentary about Fleisher called TWO HANDS, which includes footage of Fleisher talking, playing and teaching. His current CD is called THE JOURNEY, and our music critic Tim Riley has a preview of Fleisher's unlikely third act…

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