From The Baltimore Sun: Leon Fleisher, renowned Baltimore concert pianist, dies at 92
Leon Fleisher unquestionably had his challenges. On Friday, October 8th, 2004, at the end of the very first week of The Bob Edwards Show, Mr. Fleisher talked to Bob about how in 1965 his right hand betrayed him, later to be accurately diagnosed as focal dystonia. He was also promoting his then-new album, Two Hands, which was, “enthusiastically received,” according to the Washington Post.
From the program introduction:
Leon Fleisher has the distinction of being the only living pianist inducted into the Classical Music Hall of Fame. The former child prodigy made his concert debut at the age of eight. By nine, he’d travelled to Europe to study under Artur Schnabel. As a teenager, Fleisher was a featured performer on some of the most prestigious stages in the country. His legend continued to grow well into his thirties. Fleisher’s early 1960’s recordings with the Cleveland Orchestra of Beethoven’s five concertos are considered by some to be the greatest piano recordings of all time.
At the peak of his fame, Leon Fleisher noticed a tightening in his right hand. That tightness eventually would become crippling, as his hand balled up into an involuntary fist. For the next forty years, he struggled with the cause and the cure for his injury, and his career as a pianist all but ended. He would go on to teach. His pupils included such future stars as Andre Watts and Lorin Hollander. At Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory, students dubbed him .. the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the Keyboard… Fleisher says that – after years of misdiagnosis – doctors finally discovered that a condition called “dystonia” was the culprit.
First you’ll hear Christopher Buckley talk with Bob about the St. Louis presidential debate (my lord, if we only knew then how much simpler a time it was!), then sports writer Tim Green on the NFL. The rest of the hour, though is dedicated to Leon Fleisher.
Interview produced by Phil Harrell. This audio is from the DAT recorded in the studio so the quality is excellent, and I’ve included the obligatory scrip/roadmap for those interested in how things went in the studio that morning.