Leon Fleisher | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Leon Fleisher

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Before 1964 Leon Fleisher was among the greatest pianists of his day, a renowned interpreter of Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann, and Brahms. But when carpal tunnel syndrome, then a mysterious illness, rendered his right arm useless, his concert career came to a halt. One of his contemporaries, Gary Graffman, was struck by the same condition and is now in semiretirement, but Fleisher has slowly returned to the limelight, first as a conductor, then as a performer of keyboard music for the left hand, some of which was written earlier this century for Paul Wittgenstein, who lost an arm in World War I. Back in Orchestra Hall, the site of his glory days, Fleisher's amazing dexterity and musical intelligence should shine through. For this recital he's put together a sampler of left-handed gems, from Bach (an arrangement of a chaconne) to Jean Hasse (Silk Water, 1992, written for Fleisher). Also included are the dazzling Symphonic Metamorphoses on themes from Strauss's Gipsy Baron by Leopold Godowsky (another superb pianist), Saint-Saens' Six Etudes, Dinu Lipatti's Sonatine, and Toccata and Fuga by Jeno Takacs, a Bartok disciple. Sunday, 3 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 435-6666.

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