Have you ever heard of Leon Fleisher? If you are interested in contemporary symphony music, chances are you have. He is known for his famous right hand, that ironically did not work for 30 years. That’s right, he played with only his left hand. Well, as of 1995, his right hand is working again…and you might be interested how and why…
Music aficionados will know Leon Fleisher from his brilliant 15 year career in the 1950s and early 60s when he was hailed as “the pianistic find of the century.” About his debut with the New York Philharmonic, New York Times critic Olin Downs wrote, “Leon Fleisher at once established himself as one of the most gifted of the younger generation of keyboard artists.”
Ten years later, Fleisher could barely write his name, a victim of what has since become known as repetitive stress injury resulting from his obsessive hours of practice. Fleisher consulted doctor after doctor for a diagnosis of his mysteriously deteriorating hand, but they didn’t seem interested, he says, when they were unable to find something specific to medicate or surgically repair.
Fleisher’s debilitation began in 1962 and he responded by practicing harder and longer. When my body, through the mechanism of pain, told me to stop, I didn’t listen,” he says. He was 37 years old when he was forced to retire from the stage and for one of the greatest pianists of the time, his whole life seemed to disintegrate.
But he never gave up on the idea of playing again with both hands. Over the 30 years since he left the stage in 1965 he tried seemingly every medical and psychiatric treatment that held a glimmer of hope: acupuncture, hypnosis, a deep-tissue massage called myotherapy, L-dopa, steroid injections, biofeedback, even surgery. He all but gave up.
Then in March 1995 his wife introduced him to a Rolfer in Baltimore named Tessy Brungardt. Rolfing is a form of therapy that structurally changes connective tissues restoring their pliability and range of motion. A Rolfer works out the patterns of strain by using fingers, knuckles, even elbows to soften connective tissue and realign the injured areas. The technique also seems to reprogram affected parts of the nervous system.
Mere weeks after beginning to work with Brungardt, he performed a two-handed concert with the Cleveland Orchestra and later in the summer he played two handed Mozart to standing ovations at the Tanglewood Music Center. Longtime friend Andre Previn heard Fleisher playing at Tanglewood and the conductor invited him to play at Carnegie Hall which he did on January 13, 1996 to triumphant reviews. The New York Times lauded “his pianism, not just his courage”.
For more information on Rolfing or The Ruscombe Mansion Community Health Center, call 410-367-7300 and ask for a brochure. Or visit them on the web at http://members.aol.com/ruscombe