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.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music|
|Release Date: 11-30-2010|
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My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music
For Mr. Shorr, it wasn't a good lesson until he made me cry. Lev Shorr was my piano teacher. Slender, with a bald spot on top of his head, he sported a cane that he didn't need and wore pince-nez glasses that attached to the bridge of his nose with a spring-and even, incredibly enough, spats. He looked as though he had stepped out of an illustration for a men's haberdashery. He was like James Mason, but with a Russian accent. Mr. Shorr was a prodigy maker. He was also a pianist of some distinction, and he dressed the part. He was the pianist of the San Francisco Symphony; he accompanied Yehudi Menuhin, a local boy, when he was in town. But his real reputation ultimately derived from his students. There was a huge concentration of so-called child geniuses around San Francisco in those days. Shorr had taught Menuhin's sisters, Hephzibah and Yalta. He taught a girl named Laura Dubman, who gave her debut recital at the age of five and was supposed to be a rising piano talent (she later worked at MGM and taught Katharine Hepburn how to look like she was really playing the piano as Clara Schumann in Song of Love). He taught Ruth Slenczynska, who was really a big deal for a while, until she had a nervous breakdown in her teens that put her career on hiatus for a few decades. He later taught Stephen Kovacevich, who went on to be a star soloist in the generation after mine. And he taught me.
His manner was just as taut and crisp and old school as his appearance. In lessons, he focused on technique. "Technique” meant, of course, Russian technique, the classic approach for virtuosos: for Mr. Shorr, that was the only technique there was. Our fingers were to be