Hand Ailment Forces Fleisher to Cancel

The Associated Press
Friday, July 20, 2007; 2:18 PM

LENOX, Mass. -- Pianist Leon Fleisher, who for three decades was unable to play with his right hand, has canceled a performance at Tanglewood because of an inflammation of both hands.

Fleisher was scheduled to play Beethoven's "Emperor" concerto on Sunday _ the day before his 80th birthday _ with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He will be replaced by Marc-Andre Hamelin, the orchestra said Friday.

The announcement said Fleisher had to cancel because of tenosynovitis _ an inflammation of the tendon sheath _ in both hands.

The orchestra said Fleisher is expected to resume his concert schedule in Florida on Aug. 2, the same day HBO/Cinemax will show the Academy Award-nominated short documentary, "Two Hands: The Leon Fleisher Story."

Fleisher started playing the piano in his native San Francisco at age 4. Five years later, he began his studies with the renown German pianist Artur Schnabel, who traced his teaching lineage to Beethoven. In 1952, Fleisher became the first American to win the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium competition.

At age 37, his career was interrupted because two fingers on his right hand became immobile. During the next three decades, he focused his career on teaching, conducting and playing the limited piano repertoire for left hand.

He was eventually diagnosed with having focal dystonia. After surgery and years of therapy, he was able to return to two-hand playing, performing a Mozart concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra in 1995.

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