Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Chair in Piano
Recipient of the 2007 Kennedy Center Honors, subject of the 2006 Oscar-nominated short documentary Two Hands: The Leon Fleisher Story, legendary pianist Leon Fleisher is celebrating his 80th year with leading musical organizations around the world. In addition to these performances, he marked his birthday in July as soloist and conductor of an all-Mozart program with the Baltimore Symphony, followed by concerts with the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival and with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood. He will also be heard in his annual Carnegie Hall appearance and with such orchestras as the San Francisco Symphony and Janowski, the New York Philharmonic under Maazel and the London Philharmonic with Jurowski in London and at Lincoln Center and in Washington, DC.
At the age of nine, Fleisher began studies with the great German pianist Artur Schnabel, made his New York Philharmonic debut at sixteen and was the first American to win the prestigious Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Competition in 1952. He made touchstone recordings with Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra and for a dozen years he appeared in all the world's major music centers to great acclaim until, in 1965, he was struck with a neurological affliction that rendered two fingers of his right hand immobile. For almost four decades, Fleisher continued to share his special gifts through performances of the repertoire for left-hand, as a conductor and teacher, never giving up the hope that he would play again with both hands.
Through special treatments, he has been playing with both hands again in recent seasons and making critically-acclaimed recordings. At the Kennedy Center Honors last year, he was recognized as "a consummate musician whose career is a testament to the life-affirming power of art."