Renowned American pianist Leon Fleisher has died aged 92 - Nancy Ostertag / Getty Images North America / Getty Images via AFP

"The pianistic discovery of the twentieth century" said of him the conductor Pierre Monteux quoted by France Musique. So at the height of his career, at barely 36, he lost the use of his right hand due to a neurological disease. However, he will never give up his first passion: the piano. A workforce of which he will testify until his last days, he who last week still gave masterclasses of management testifies his son. He died in Baltimore. He was 92 years old.

A genius of the piano

He was only 9 years old when he left to study in Europe under the wing of the famous pianist and teacher Arthur Schnabel between 1938 and 1948. Eight years later, he signed his first successes at Carnegie Hall in New York where he performed . Total consecration at only 23 years old, he became the first American pianist to win the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels and two years later recorded his first disc with Columbia Records which he dedicated to Franz Schubert. His talent marked an entire generation.

Dazzling beginnings slowed down by a neurological disease

At 36, he was the victim of a neurological disease which deprived him of his right hand and forced him to cancel numerous concerts. He then tries various treatments to regain his motor skills, in vain. After two dark years, he decides to reinvent himself by investing in other places of music and finally becomes a conductor.

Leon Fleisher will take the same path as others of his predecessors, Paul Wittgenstein in particular who had lost his right hand during the First World War and whose work inspired him enormously; Maurice Ravel also for The concerto for the left hand  which will become his work of predilection.

"Never admit defeat"

In 1995 he managed to regain the use of his right hand after several injections of botox but will never be completely cured of these previous years, whose record title Two Hands  testifies to the difficulty.

Tribute to Leon Fleischer, American pianist and conductor who died yesterday. He lost the use of his right hand at the age of 36, managed to regain the use of it after several years and celebrated this return with a recording called Two hands. His lesson in life: never admit defeat.

- Roselyne Bachelot (@R_Bachelot) August 3, 2020

Hailed by the critics cited by France Musique, he was a "complete pianist, whose technique knows no difficulty, with ornate and expressive intonation, a sure intellectual mastery of musical form and heightened sensitivity, no matter what. 'he was playing ".


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