The American pianist and revered pedagogue Leon Fleisher has died of cancer at the age of 92. Tributes have been pouring in for Fleischer, whose career path was notoriously impacted by an injury in his right hand when he was in his 30s.
Fleisher was born in San Francisco in 1928 and studied with Artur Schnabel. He made his solo debut at Carnegie Hall in 1944 at the age of 16 and became the first ever American pianist to win gold at The Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium at the age of 24.
Leon Fleisher. Photo © Peabody Institute
As a concerto soloist Fleisher worked closely with George Szell, recording extensively with the conductor, including making benchmark recordings of Brahms and Beethoven with Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra.
When an injury to his right hand – later diagnosed as focal dystonia, and which Fleisher attributed to over-practising – disrupted his career as a concert pianist, he forged a new path as a conductor, teacher and interpreter of the left-handed repertoire, including Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand and Britten’s Diversions for...