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Fleisher, Leon


FLEISHER, LEON (1928– ), U.S. pianist and conductor. Fleisher was born in San Francisco to Russian parents. He gave his first public recital at the age of six. From 1938 until 1948 he studied with Arthur *Schnabel in Italy and in New York. He made his New York debut at the age of 16, with Monteux, who also taught him conducting. Fleisher was the first American to win a major piano competition – the Queen Elisabeth International in Brussels (1952); he made several European tours and played highly successful recitals in South America. He gave the first performance of Leon Kirchner's Second Piano Concerto (1963), performed many modern works, and made numerous recordings. At his peak his playing combined intellectual power, warmth of feeling, grace, taste, and sensuous beauty.

In 1964 Fleisher began to suffer from cramps in the right hand, as a result of which he became incapable of regular playing. He began to conduct and to play the piano repertory for the left hand. Fleisher became conductor of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra (1970), was associate conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (1973–77), and made guest conducting appearances with major U.S. orchestras. In 1982, after surgery and many treatments, Fleisher returned gradually to the standard piano literature. He was appointed artistic director of the Tanglewood Music Center (1985–97), where in 1994 he gave the première of *Foss's Piano Concerto for left hand. From 1959 he was professor of piano at the Peabody Conservatory, Baltimore, where he later held the Andrew W. Mellon Chair in piano; he was also a visiting professor at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem.


Grove online;mgg2; Baker's Biographical Dictionary (1997); D. Robert, in: Clavier, 38/8 (1999), 20–27.

[Max Loppert /

Naama Ramot (2nd ed.)

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