Pianist and conductor Fleisher visits Blair
February marked an important visit by pianist and conductor Leon Fleisher, Kennedy Center honoree and undisputed dean of American musicians. Fleisher’s well-documented life story exemplifies both artistic genius and strength of will. After building a career as one of the world’s foremost pianists in the 1950s and early 1960s, he was stricken by a neurological affliction known as focal dystonia, which left two fingers on his right hand immobile. He spent the next 30 years pursuing a dual career as conductor and teacher, while learning to play the extensive repertoire for piano left hand. After the discovery of new experimental medical treatments, he regained some mobility in his right hand and has returned to playing piano with both hands. His story was told in the 2006 Oscar-nominated documentary film Two Hands after his 2004 recording of the same name. This 18-minute film was introduced by Mark Wait at its screening as Blair’s Music on Film series offering in January.
Mr. Fleisher and his wife, pianist Katherine Jacobson Fleisher, performed in Ingram Hall on February 6 as the Fleisher Duo—a monumental performance event for the entire Vanderbilt and Nashville community. As part of his Blair residency, he conducted and performed a Mozart piano concerto with the Vanderbilt University Orchestra on February 7 and participated in an open rehearsal of the Brahms Piano Quintet with the Blair String Quartet on February 9.