On hearing Leon Fleisher play Bach


He knows what’s important— the purity, the essence of the music. There’s nothing like not being able to play the piano for forty years to make one appreciate each sound. Each opportunity to create beauty. There’s no excuse, no need for artifice. Each moment has purpose.

Years of absence and silence have refined the desire to create sound. Decades of trying and failing to regain health, prestige, career have bruised and beaten the ego to a pulp. Only the heart of the music remains, as only the soul of man survives.

Now he wants to play Bach, Chopin, Schubert. Why play music that is purely virtuosic? He learned long ago that maximum notes per second are not where it’s at.

“Before, I was just a two-handed piano player,” he says. “What happened to me has expanded my life, my awareness, my humanity.”

4 Responses to “On hearing Leon Fleisher play Bach”

  1. I understand your meaning and sweet passion on this topic but, with due respect, I would argue that the decades between two handed playing were not “silent” ones; nor was Fleisher “absent” from the music scene. He learned and performed a fairly hefty package of piano works for left hand alone (both solo and concerti), conducted, continued to teach (in fact, expanded this activity) and generally weighed in musically. Really.

    • Hi Rikki,
      Thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate your input and I agree with you. Leon Fleisher certainly wasn’t silent, in a literal sense.
      Yet, to read accounts of what he went through during those years, he never gave up wanting to get back to playing with both hands, and to be able to perform the full range of piano repertoire. I sensed therefore that, although he was making the utmost of his challenging situation, he still felt stifled.
      I don’t know the man personally, although I would love to. So this is just my interpretation. I do find his story incredibly inspiring, as a concert pianist who has been away from the stage for twelve years now, with my own health challenges.

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