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Leon Fleisher - Overcoming odds / Cincinnati.com Q&A

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It is one of the most inspiring stories in music. Pianist Leon Fleisher was enjoying a flourishing concert and recording career in the mid-1960s, when he cut his right thumb, requiring stitches. Shortly after that, the fourth and fifth fingers on that hand began to curl into his palm, making it impossible to play.

Suddenly, at age 36, it appeared as if his career was over.

But he didn't quit, instead adding teaching and conducting to his repertoire, and becoming a world-renowned expert of music for the left hand. He will perform Prokofiev's rarely played Piano Concerto No. 4 for Left Hand Alone with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Feb. 5 and 6 in Music Hall.

Eventually, Fleisher's condition was diagnosed as "focal dystonia," a crippling neurological disorder. Still, he never gave up his desire to play once again with both hands. In the mid-90s, helped by Botox injections and physical therapy, he made a comeback using two hands, and formed a four-hands duo with his wife, pianist Katherine Jacobson.

Now 87, the San Francisco native and recipient of 2007 Kennedy Center Honors pursues an international schedule of performing, conducting and teaching at Peabody Conservatory. Just back from a tour of China and Japan, he spoke by phone from his home in Baltimore.  READ THE FULL Cincinnati.com Q&A