December 6, 2010

Leon Fleisher discusses new book, called ‘My Nine Lives’

On Tues., Dec. 7, Leon Fleisher, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Chair in Piano at the Peabody Conservatory since 1959, and his co-author, Anne Midgette, classical music critic of The Washington Post, will talk about and sign copies of My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Bank of America Lounge at Peabody.

Just published by Doubleday, the book—like Nathaniel Kahn’s Oscar-nominated film Two Hands—traces Fleisher’s struggle with the focal dystonia that struck in 1965, paralyzing two fingers of his right hand. Although, after three decades, his ability to use those fingers was restored through Rolfing and Botox, the crisis led him to explore other approaches to music. As he recounts: “I, the clean-cut piano soloist, took on the appearance of a long-haired hippie. I, the interpreter of Brahms, began conducting contemporary music that was unlike anything I had previously encountered in my musical life: thorny scores and avant-garde operas.” It also changed Fleisher as a teacher, forcing him to learn to “use words to communicate the truths in the pieces I loved, which I had once expressed with my fingers alone.”