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Piano Virtuoso arrives to celebrate inauguration

Chris McGrady | Thursday, September 22, 2005

Leon Fleischer, an accomplished pianist and musical sensation, will be joining several other headlining acts as part of the celebration of University President Father John Jenkins inauguration.

Fleisher was born career in San Francisco and has been tickling the ivories since age four. His first public recital was at age eight and he has been packing concert houses ever since.

At the ripe age of 16, Fleisher debuted with the New York Philharmonic. Fleisher spent time touring around the world before devastatingly his career was nearly ended.

During the 1964-1965 season, Fleisher was diagnosed with repetitive stress syndrome, effectively rendering his right hand useless. However, Fleisher was too determined to let this setback become a major one. Through perseverance and hard work, Fleischer joined Luke Skywalker, Jim Abbott, and Captain Hook as three individuals who managed to overcome the loss of one set of phalanges. However, unlike Luke Skywalker and Captain Hooks loss of mobility, Fleisher’s suffering was real. However, Fleisher did not less this stop him from doing the things he loved.

For years, Fleischer played the piano with only one hand. He learned music that was strictly left-handed. It seems to most that this would clearly limit one’s playing ability. However, this was not the case at all with Fleisher. Not only did he play incredible music with one hand, in the process Fleischer won two Grammy nominations. It was not until 1995 that Fleisher was once again able to use both hands, completing a performance of the Mozart Concerto.

in A Major. After recovering from the digit-deadening affliction, Fleisher was able to establish himself once again as a prodigy of the keys.

In the past few seasons, Fleisher has performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the Orchestre de Paris, and the Berlin Staatsoper Orchestra. However, Fleisher’s talents are not limited to only his playing abilities but extend into the realm of conducting as well.

Fleisher established himself as a conductor when he founded the Theater Chamber Players in 1967 and then became music director of the Annapolis Symphony in 1970. Not only has he spent time as a mainstay conductor in many different areas, he has also appeared as a guest conductor with the Boston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, the Montreal Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, and the St, Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Fleisher currently holds the Andrew W. Mellon Chair at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and has done so since 1959. Among his many accomplishments are honorary doctorates from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Towson State University, and the Cleveland Institute of Music.

The Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra and Notre Dame’s choral groups will join Fleisher as he helps celebrate University President Father John Jenkins inauguration at 9 p.m. Thursday in the Leighton Concert Hall in the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts.