About this time I must have seen the Beethoven film Immortal beloved. Gary Oldman plays a very impressive Beethoven (and Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbé a slightly less impressive Schindler) in a good story with even better music.
Much to my surprise the album is a collection of absolute top performances. But I didn’t have it. I wanted to hear more of that fabulous fifth piano concerto, that I didn’t hear before seeing the movie. So I went about looking for good recordings. This was my first attempt.
Leon Fleisher was born in 1928 in San Fransisco, in an immigrant Jewish family. Already at 22 he signed a record contract, and won the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Concours in Belgium two years later. He recorded with the famous George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra and everything went well.
Then disaster struck. Fleisher was diagnosed with an incurable neurological condition on his right hand that inhibited him from using it. He plowed on by playing concerts for only the left hand (yes, those do exist!). In 2004 he published an album where he played with both hands again. A documentary movie with the same title was nominated for an Academy Award in 2007.
This record is from 1961, three years before he was diagnosed. Fleisher died in 2020.