Classical Pick of the Week: Piano Party and Mendelssohn's 200th
Leon Fleisher is a world renown pianist and conductor who has left a lasting impact on pianists in the 20th century. Many of his students are now world famous soloists and teachers, including Jonathan Biss, Yefim Bronfman, Helene Grimaud, and Andre Watts. He lost feeling in his right hand due to focal dystonia, and continued his career by performing left-hand piano music (yes, there is such a thing) and teaching at Peabody and Curtis. Here is a video of him performing the cadenza (often in a piece the solo instrument goes off into an improvisation or virtuosic passage, often towards the end of a piece) of Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand. This piece was written for a friend of Ravel's who had lost his right arm in the first World War. Leon Fleisher eventually regained the use of his right hand and performs and conducts on a regular basis. This week he comes to Los Angeles to conduct the Colburn Orchestra. For more information on his work, 60 Minutes did a documentary on him that you can also find on Youtube and there is also an Oscar-nominated documentary titled "Two Hands" out there.
This week features a bevy of pianists performing music that everyone can enjoy. First off, Piano Spheres returns with pianist Vicki Ray performing three "concertos" and two "cadenzas" by John Adams, Igor Stravinsky (featuring Julia Steinberg), Julia Wolfe, Rand Steiger, and Frederick Rzewski. The concert takes place at the Colburn School on Tuesday. The Mouse House will feature the pianist Yuja Wang all week long in some chamber music and the Prokofiev Piano Concerto no. 2. On Saturday, Leon Fleisher will conduct the Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini (unfortunately he will only be conducting) the Colburn Orchestra at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena. To celebrate the 200th birthday of Mendelssohn (February 3rd, 1809), Sundays Live will feature the amazing Mendelssohn Octet, for free.