Wednesday, July 23, 2008

P4E.082 Two Hands

I heard a story on the radio this morning that touched my heart and made my eyes well with tears. I thought I'd share it with you.

Today is the 80th birthday of classical pianist Leon Fleisher. Born in San Francisco, Fleisher began playing piano at age 4 and made his debut at 8 years of age. By 16 he played with the New York Philharmonic. In 1952 Fleisher won the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Piano Competition of Belgium.

At the height of his meteoric career, Fleisher's right hand was stricken with focal dystonia, a condition in which the muscles of the hand contract or twist, causing the fingers to either curl up into the palm or extend uncontrollably. Undaunted, Fleisher continued his music career by conducting and teaching, particularly at the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. He also became an advocate for young musicians and their physical well-being. He describes them as "professional athletes who use their small muscles." Fleisher kept playing piano and making recordings, focusing on left-handed compositions.

Fleisher never gave up seeking a cure for his condition. In the early 2000's combining massage therapy and botox injections he was able to regain the use of his right hand. In 2004, Fleisher released his first "two-handed" recording in over 40 years, called "Two Hands" to critical acclaim. For the first piece of the Two Hands recording, Fleisher chose Johann Sebastian Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." (The radio program played the piece from Two Hands. My wife and I had chosen this music to be played in our wedding ceremony over 30 years ago. That's when my eyes welled with tears.) Part of the lyrics of that composition go like this:

"Jesus all my joy remaineth,
My heart's solace and my stay,
All my wounds to heal he deigneth,
On him all my need I lay

Peace and Joy, Kim


  1. That is really a great story. Oh, how love for something can help us through unimaginable obstacles!

  2. We too chose "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" for our wedding ceremony (1982).

    I always read, Kim. I love your blog.