The stirring memoir of one of the greatest pianists of the postwar era—an inspiring tale of triumph over crippling incapacity that rivals Shine.
The pianist Leon Fleisher—whose student–teacher lineage linked him to Beethoven by way of his instructor, Artur Schnabel—displayed an exceptional gift from his earliest years. And then, like the hero of a Greek tragedy, he was struck down in his prime: at thirty-six years old, he suddenly and mysteriously became unable to use two fingers of his right hand.
It is not just Fleisher’s thirty-year search for a cure that drives this remarkable memoir. With his coauthor, celebrated music critic Anne Midgette, the pianist explores the depression that engulfed him as his condition worsened and, perhaps most powerfully of all, the sheer love of music that rescued him from complete self-destruction.
Miraculously, at the age of sixty-six, Fleisher was diagnosed with focal dystonia, and cured by experimental Botox injections. In 2003, he returned to Carnegie Hall to give his first two-handed recital in over three decades, bringing down the house.
Sad, reflective, but ultimately triumphant, My Nine Lives combines the glamour, pathos, and courage of Fleisher’s life with real musical and intellectual substance. Fleisher embodies the resilience of the human spirit, and his memoir proves that true passion always finds a way.
Pianist Fleisher played the Brahms D Minor concerto at his debut with the New York Philharmonic when he was 16 years old. A brilliant career seemed assured. But at the age of 36, Fleisher lost the use of two fingers on his right hand (due to a neurological condition called focal dystonia), which ended his performing career. This heartfelt memoir chronicles Fleisher's remarkable musical life, beginning as a child prodigy playing Beethoven in San Francisco to his acceptance of Kennedy Center Honors in 2007. Writing chronologically, Fleisher recalls his early training with the master teacher Artur Schnabel, his early performance success followed by career disappointments. He recounts his foray into conducting, his love of teaching, and his years of contentment as the director of Tanglewood. In each of the five interludes interspersed within the narrative, Fleisher provides a learned and lively synopsis of a single composer and a seminal composition. Aptly titled as a master class, these worthy asides will delight serious students of classical music or anyone interested in musical theory. Fleisher intimately chronicles his years of despair during his search for a cure to his mysterious malady, and the ultimate understanding of how his disease opened up new careers within his beloved world of classical music.