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Leon Fleisher: Remembering A Musical Giant

Photo © by Chris Hartlove

"The world lost one of its greatest musical minds and hearts on Sunday when the legendary pianist, conductor and teacher Leon Fleisher died of cancer at the age of 92.  I was proud to be one of the many people around the world privileged to call Leon a friend.  When I was working as a musician, I had the great honor of working with him at the Baltimore Opera Company and on several other projects.  I also had the pleasure of interviewing him here on WYPR and at other public events over the years.  He was a captivating artist, whose music making was suffused with unparalleled grace, and boundless passion.  And he was a mensch.  A funny, enlightening and wonderful guy whose company it was always a pleasure to keep...

"He gave his first public performance as a pianist at the beginning of President Franklin Roosevelt’s second term, and he continued to perform for eight more decades.  When a neurological disorder known as focal dystonia restricted the use of his right hand, he played concerts with his left hand, and he conducted.  

"And he coached young musicians.   He taught at the Johns Hopkins University's Peabody Institute here in Baltimore for 59 years.  I invited a few guests to be with us today to share their recollections of working with Leon Fleisher.  First, Anne Midgette joins us.  She is the former classical music critic for the Washington Post who collaborated with Leon on a book called My Nine Lives: A Musical Memoir.  Then I speak with concert pianists Lura Johnson and Michael Sheppard, both of whom studied under Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Institute.

"Thanks to all for sharing your recollections of this wonderful artist.  Our hearts go out to Leon Fleisher's wife and pianistic collaborator, Katherine Jacobson, his sons Julian and Richard, and his daughters Deborah, Leah and Paula."   -- Midday host Tom Hall

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