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Leon Fleisher, who was born in 1928 in San Francisco, was a student of the great German pianist Artur Schnabel. In 1944 he made his debut with the New York Philharmonic, and in 1952 he became the first American to win the International Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. The following 12 years saw the development of his international career; especially impressive is the legacy of his collaboration with the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell, as preserved on numerous recordings. In the middle of the 1964-65 season, Fleisher’s concertizing came to an abrupt halt as a result of focal dystonia, which disabled two fingers on his right hand. For almost four decades he was limited to performing only repertoire for the left hand, though with great success: His recording of the concertos of Ravel and Prokofiev won a Grammy, and Musical America named him Musician of the Year in 1994. In addition, he devoted himself to conducting and to educational work. For 11 years, from 1986 to 1997, Fleisher also served as Artistic Director of the Tanglewood Music Center. Following the development of new therapies and treatment with Botox, Fleisher successfully regained full use of his right hand. In 2003 he made a sensational comeback playing two-handed repertoire at Carnegie Hall in New York, and in 2004 he released the CD Two Hands. Over the past season he gave recitals in such cities as New York, London, and Brussels and performed as soloist with the London Philharmonic and the St. Louis, Baltimore, and Toronto Symphony Orchestras; he also presented various chamber music projects at Alice Tully Hall in New York. Leon Fleisher is the first living pianist to be inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame; in 2010 the Royal Philharmonic Society named him Instrumentalist of the Year.
LUCERNE FESTIVAL (IMF) debut on 29 August 1962 in Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto, with the Swiss Festival Orchestra under George Szell.