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Leon Fleisher: A Life Lived Large / Free Times interview

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Like the Biblical figure Job, the classical pianist Leon Fleisher had it all, lost it, and got it back. 

For his first few decades, Fleisher - who will be teaching master classes and lecturing throughout next week at the 2014 Southeastern Piano Festival - led a charmed life. 

Born in 1928, he was a child prodigy whose life became a series of professional peaks. He gave his first recital at age 8; by 9, he was being tutored in Italy by the great pianist Artur Schnabel. At 16, he was playing with the New York Philharmonic; by 24, he was the first American winner of the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Competition. 

Then it was on to a highly productive decade as the lead pianist with George Szell's Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, where Fleisher distinguished himself on classic Columbia recordings of Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor and Beethoven's piano concerti, among many others. His contemporaries in the 1950s and 1960s were Leonard Bernstein, Glenn Gould and Gary Graffman, all of whom he counted as friends. 

Everything was going great, personally and professionally, right up to the age of 36, when his right hand staged a rebellion. READ THE FULL Free Times INTERVIEW.