Legendary pianist and conductor Leon Fleisher will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music at the University of Cincinnati Commencement Ceremony at 9 a.m., Saturday, April 27, in Fifth Third Arena.
Fleisher is widely recognized as one of the world’s truly great artists. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Chair of Piano served as Great Master Instructor for a residency at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music last October.
Fleisher recently discussed his CCM residency with Suzanne Bona on WVXU’s Around Cincinnati. You can listen to the full interview here.
At 84 years young, Fleisher continues to impart his life-affirming artistry throughout the world, thriving in a sustained career as conductor and soloist, recitalist, chamber music artist and master class mentor.
Fleisher made his debut with the New York Philharmonic in 1944 and in 1952, he became the first American to win the prestigious Queen Elisabeth of Belgium competition, establishing himself as one of the world’s premier classical pianists. At the height of his success, he was suddenly struck silent at age 36 with a neurological affliction later identified as focal dystonia, rendering two fingers on his right hand immobile. Rather than end his career, Fleisher began focusing on repertoire for the left hand only, conducting and teaching. Not until some 40 years later was he able to return to playing with both hands after undergoing experimental treatments using a regimen of Rolfing and ‘botulinum toxin’ injections.
In the 2012-2013 season, Fleisher’s engagements include performances and master classes in Switzerland (master classes at the university and a recital at the Lucerne Festival), Germany (as conductor/soloist of the Bamberg Symphony and playing chamber music at the Tonhalle in Duesseldorf), Brazil (Ravel Concerto with the Philharmonic Orchestra in Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro), France (master classes in Strasbourg), conducting in Taiwan and Japan, and performing in halls across the United States.
Last season, Fleisher returned to some of Europe’s most prestigious musical capitals – London, Paris and Brussels – and performed as soloist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall and as chamber musician at Wigmore Hall; as conductor/soloist with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France at Salle Pleyel in Paris; and in recital at Belgium’s Palais des Beaux-Arts. He made his U.K. conducting debut with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, toured the U.S. as a soloist with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, appeared as conductor/soloist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and was a soloist with the St. Louis and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras. Fleisher was a featured artist with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, where he also conducted a chamber music master class that was streamed throughout the country.
A recipient of numerous honors and awards, Fleisher received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in 2007. In 2006, he was the subject of the 2006 Oscar and Emmy-nominated documentary film Two Hands. His recent memoir, My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music, which he co-wrote with Washington Post music critic Anne Midgette, is published by Doubleday. Most recently, Baltimore philanthropists Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker established the Leon Fleisher Scholars Fund for piano students at the Peabody Conservatory, an endowment of more than $1 million.