Stories » At 90, San Francisco piano great Leon Fleisher continues to inspire / KQED

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At 90, San Francisco piano great Leon Fleisher continues to inspire / KQED

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In a recent conversation with the Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko, the subject turned to Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, a work recorded by virtually every pianist of renown, dead or alive. I raved about the electrifying recordings of William Kapell and Dimitri Mitropoulos, Vladimir Horowitz and Arturo Toscanini. Demidenko dismissed them all. "The benchmark for me is [Leon] Fleisher's recording with [George] Szell," he said with a calm, serious tone in his voice, referring to the preeminent San Francisco-born pianist's collaboration with the late conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra. "Fleisher's recording is unsurpassed. What an agile, brilliant mind. And what a very interesting man. I have great respect for him."

Leon Fleisher is ninety years old today. One of the most refined and transcendent musicians the United States has ever produced, he continues to inspire generations of musicians as a teacher, mentor and performer.

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