Pianist Leon Fleisher celebrated what he called "a special Thanksgiving season" Wednesday afternoon with a program of Chopin and Bach for an overflow audience in Masur Auditorium at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.

Fleisher, 75, dedicated his performance to the physicians who helped him return to the concert world after a 40-year struggle with focal hand dystonia. He has been receiving treatment at NIH that has relieved symptoms of the neurological disorder that crippled his right hand at the age of 35.

Fleisher played Chopin's Nocturne in D-flat and an arrangement of the aria "Sheep May Safely Graze" from Bach's Cantata No. 208, composed to mark a royal birthday -- fitting for the pianist's renewed career. Fleisher left no doubt that a truly vocal quality streamed through both pieces. In the Chopin, his absolute control allowed freedom to linger within seemingly improvisatorial phrases. He intoned Bach's original hymn tune with all its consolation and certitude as it alternated between hands.

Fleisher has maintained his sense of humor, remarking that before the NIH treatments, he had "tried everything from aromatherapy to Zen." And he added, "There is always hope."

-- Cecelia Porter

Leon Fleisher dedicated his program at NIH to the doctors there who restored his crippled right hand.