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My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music

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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 s 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.


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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 s 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.

30 review for My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Barbara H

    It was a pleasure learning about the life of one of my favorite pianists. Leon Fleisher has indeed lead a full existence, starting from the age of seven, when he performed as a child prodigy. His career was brilliant and varied, exposing him to a wide variety of noted performers, conductors and composers. It almost came to an end, when he suddenly and mysteriously he lost the use of his right hand at the age of 36. How he coped with this plight and his attitude provided much fuel for this memoir It was a pleasure learning about the life of one of my favorite pianists. Leon Fleisher has indeed lead a full existence, starting from the age of seven, when he performed as a child prodigy. His career was brilliant and varied, exposing him to a wide variety of noted performers, conductors and composers. It almost came to an end, when he suddenly and mysteriously he lost the use of his right hand at the age of 36. How he coped with this plight and his attitude provided much fuel for this memoir. He addressed his love of music and the wonderful, interesting people in his life with remarkable insight. Fleisher discussed many of my beloved composers in this memoir. He taught at the Peabody, where he noted posters with images of galaxies and stars. " We do a lot of thinking about the cosmos in my lessons. That's where Beethoven resides, and Schubert, and the other great composers. But especially Beethoven. That's cosmic music". (p.215) It amazed me to read that this hugely talented man so mirrored my sentiments! At times I felt that Fleisher rambled too much and even became too technical about the mechanics of playing the piano. I did learn interesting features about such performances, however. The tone of his narrative is well illustrated in his statement at the conclusion of the book."Playing music is a state of grace. It's an ecstacy. And it's a privilege. After I began playing again, I never took it for granted. In all of my rich and varied life, there's still nothing I love more." (p.302) Who could fail to admire, esteem and love such an individual?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    When I received this book, I thought "Ugh, not another boring autobiography." but I am both ashamed and relieved to admit that I was wrong. This book is wonderfully written. It captured my attention and I couldn't put it down. The picturesque writing made me feel as though I was living this life myself. I also loved the pictures in the book. I am a very visual person, and it was awesome to view glimpses of the authors life. When I received this book, I thought "Ugh, not another boring autobiography." but I am both ashamed and relieved to admit that I was wrong. This book is wonderfully written. It captured my attention and I couldn't put it down. The picturesque writing made me feel as though I was living this life myself. I also loved the pictures in the book. I am a very visual person, and it was awesome to view glimpses of the authors life.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dubravka

    What a warm and inspiring book, with so much talk and thoughts on music and musicians! What more can one want? I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and exploring all the music and musicians he mentions. His love for music, for piano, for his fellow musicians shines through and through. He talks about music; he muses about himself and others (I loved when he could not explain Ozawa's decisions and simply decided that Ozawa temporarily lost his mind: it most certainly sounds like that, though I'd What a warm and inspiring book, with so much talk and thoughts on music and musicians! What more can one want? I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and exploring all the music and musicians he mentions. His love for music, for piano, for his fellow musicians shines through and through. He talks about music; he muses about himself and others (I loved when he could not explain Ozawa's decisions and simply decided that Ozawa temporarily lost his mind: it most certainly sounds like that, though I'd love to hear Ozawa's side of the story). I love his sense of humor. His regret about not being a good father when his kids were young is touching, and he seems to have worked hard to remedy that in later years. He talks about his happy moments, his pains and tragedies, his mistakes and his triumphs in such a lovely warm manner. But music and musicians!!! It is like reading about someone who resided on Mount Olympus for a while and is telling us about it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steve Smits

    When looking at liner notes or reference works on classical music I am often struck by the short life spans of many great composers: Mozart - 35 years; Chopin - 39; Schubert - 31; Schumann - 46; Mendelssohn - 38. What music we've missed due to the early deaths of these musical giants. Would that they had lived as long as Hayden (78). Leon Fleisher, thankfully, still lives on at age 82. This book is the story of his life in music; a story full of tragedy and loss, but also of renewal and inspirati When looking at liner notes or reference works on classical music I am often struck by the short life spans of many great composers: Mozart - 35 years; Chopin - 39; Schubert - 31; Schumann - 46; Mendelssohn - 38. What music we've missed due to the early deaths of these musical giants. Would that they had lived as long as Hayden (78). Leon Fleisher, thankfully, still lives on at age 82. This book is the story of his life in music; a story full of tragedy and loss, but also of renewal and inspiration. More than just an intriguing memoir, this book tells us much about the power and meaning of music. Fleisher was a child prodigy who studied under the great Artur Schnabel. By his early adulthood, Fleisher was a widely known and highly regarded concert pianist who played with the great symphonies and was building a catalog of recorded works. At the height of his prime he was struck suddenly with a mysterious debilitating neurological condition that curled two fingers on his right hand up toward his palm. For a pianist the essential tools of his craft are his hands and feet (and ears). For such a consummate performing artist to be deprived of the use of his right hand seems incredibly cruel, on a level with Beethoven's hearing loss. Fleisher sought all manner of treatments for his condition (some fairly whacky, but who could blame him), all to no avail. For over thirty years he held out hope that his hand would recover. Although no longer able to perform as he had, Fleisher moved in new directions that ultimately have had more impact on the musical world than if he had been spared his disability. He learned a repertoire of works written for the left hand (surprisingly large) and performed these across the world. He became a teacher, a conductor, a composer, and a mover and shaker on the musical scene. (He was artistic director at Tanglewood for many years.) After more that thirty years without the use of his right hand on the keyboard, Fleisher found some treatments that vastly improved his condition. Combining "rolfing" techniques with periodic botox injections has restored his dexterity to the pointy where he again performs two-handed works. On just this level his story would be remarkable, but the real power of this book lies in how his life emblemizes the power, passion and deep meaning of music. His insights into music draw us into the complexity and richness of the great musical works. His life's work, even through the tragedy of his loss, reminds us that truly appreciating and realizing the wonder of music is far from the technical aspects of hands and feet; it is the heart and mind that are most important. The book has several sections that delve into specific works. Labeled "master classes" he gives us his understanding of the works. He has a great faculty for expressing in words the sublime elements of his favorite pieces. I wish he had given us more of this in the book. One can see how effective a teacher he must be. The afterword of the book references a website of the publisher where you can hear snippets of his performances of many of the works mentioned in the book. This is recommended. ( )

  5. 5 out of 5

    Book Him Danno

    Interesting and lots of music talk. The people he met and trained with or trained, were impressive. I love that he can trace his teacher back, through teachers, to Beethoven. He seemed to have the same problems many celebrities have with personal relationships, three marriages and two families of children(opus 1 and opus 2). As most celebrities he felt the need to share his political views at the end of the book. He is disgusted with the current president and his policies, I had to agree with hi Interesting and lots of music talk. The people he met and trained with or trained, were impressive. I love that he can trace his teacher back, through teachers, to Beethoven. He seemed to have the same problems many celebrities have with personal relationships, three marriages and two families of children(opus 1 and opus 2). As most celebrities he felt the need to share his political views at the end of the book. He is disgusted with the current president and his policies, I had to agree with him. Of course he was talking of President Bush and I'm talking about Obama. It was a good book and fast to read, an interesting look at a music filled-life. Maybe not always the way he imagined, but music inspired and enjoyed all the same. I won this on the giveaway section and received it in the mail today. Thank you Random House and Leon Fleisher for this experience. I'm going to give this to my children's piano teacher to enjoy next.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Smith

    Even if you know nothing about music at all, you will be enlightened by Leon Fleisher's candid and intelligent memoir-cum-master class. Fleisher, a child piano prodigy, grew up to be one of the major American pianists before losing the use of one hand. After many years of work, he got it back. Fleisher talks about his life warts and all--he considers himself far more of a success as a pianist than as a father or husband--but the greatest delight of this book is Fleisher talking about music. He h Even if you know nothing about music at all, you will be enlightened by Leon Fleisher's candid and intelligent memoir-cum-master class. Fleisher, a child piano prodigy, grew up to be one of the major American pianists before losing the use of one hand. After many years of work, he got it back. Fleisher talks about his life warts and all--he considers himself far more of a success as a pianist than as a father or husband--but the greatest delight of this book is Fleisher talking about music. He has spent much of his musical life as a teacher, and he talks passionately and splendidly about the music he has played. You'll never listen to music quite the same way again. Highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lorenzo Martinez

    Leon Fleisher: musician extraordinary. This is an inspiring, heart-felt memoir about one of the best and most-respected pianist of the 20th century. If you love music, and, particularly, piano music this is a must-read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Adam Smith

    A compelling story, but mostly a reminder of the human possibilities of reinvention. Per Leon himself, it's not our hands that music, it's we who make music. A compelling story, but mostly a reminder of the human possibilities of reinvention. Per Leon himself, it's not our hands that music, it's we who make music.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Paul Frandano

    Leon Fleisher gives us perhaps two lives or so too many. I adored the first two hundred pages of this autobiography, which were filled with Fleisher's reminiscences of San Francisco's brilliant Jewish musical scene, which produced Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, and, of course, Fleisher, of his legendary teacher, Artur Schnabel, who invited the 9-year-old Fleisher to Lago di Como for summer instruction, his driven mother's (successful) quest to advance the career of her bubbeleh, his remarkable rel Leon Fleisher gives us perhaps two lives or so too many. I adored the first two hundred pages of this autobiography, which were filled with Fleisher's reminiscences of San Francisco's brilliant Jewish musical scene, which produced Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, and, of course, Fleisher, of his legendary teacher, Artur Schnabel, who invited the 9-year-old Fleisher to Lago di Como for summer instruction, his driven mother's (successful) quest to advance the career of her bubbeleh, his remarkable relationship with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra over the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 (B-flat major, Op. 83, their recording of which remains a thrilling document of both soloist and orchestral greatness), and of so much more that was formative in the life of the young piano prodigy who became the formidable concert pianist. Then, at age 36, Fleisher experienced a catastrophic loss of the use of his right hand, to a condition eventually diagnosed as focal dystonia. At that point, the book becomes a narrative of, first, a mad search for a cure, then partial resignation and continued concertizing (while a esteemed member of the Peabody Conservatory piano faculty) as a master of the left-hand piano repertoire, then the discovery of botox (!!!) as an agent of ameliorated symptoms (if not cure) and a limited return to two-handed concertizing. The arc of this story is indeed stirring, but for me it was a literary slog through Fleisher's candid anxieties, self-pity, progressions of treatments, disappointments, renewed hopes, and on and on and on. In between, we learn, again through candid revelations, of Fleisher's self-absorption and his resulting failures as a husband and father of nevertheless (mostly) adoring children, and his final falling prey to the great occupational hazard of the Professoriate: falling for a student and picking up a cute, talented trophy bride less than half his age. Yes, Fleisher calls himself out for his human shortcomings, but there's something rote, something obligatory about his self-criticism. No, I'm not craving from him a greater sense of suffering - he suffered: winding up in the Slough of Despond after nearly two decades of artistic glory - just a bit more acknowledgement of the lives he ran over and drove away from without much of a backward glance apart from pro forma comments. Finally, a hats-off to Anne Midgette, who elicited from Fleisher the remarkable reminiscences of his rise and wove them into so fascinating story of personal professional growth through encounters with extraordinary musicians. She might have pulled him back a bit in the second half - perhaps she did - but they obviously concluded that the focal dystonia story was of a significance equal to the ascent story and its telling required every single detail recorded in the text. Those details wore me out, and I closed the book, finally, with a sense of relief. This is nevertheless a valuable document of a life lived in the Great Tradition of Western music, by an indubitably great artist, as well as a great story of indomitable will in overcoming a fearsome obstacle to that artistry. In chronicling that overcoming, however, I thought Fleisher and Midgette expended too much effort - taking the reader through a veritable Bataan Death March to recovery - in recording the heroism of the indefatigable striving. It simply wore me out.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book gave me a lot of food for thought on many different levels -- about what it means to be a performer, about Fleisher's struggle with focal dystonia, about the upper echelons of the music world. Well-written and engaging, this memoir takes the reader on a journey through the life of a piano prodigy with all its ups and downs. There are plenty of cameos, not just by virtually every giant of the classical music scene from 1950-2000, but also people like Oprah, Mr. Rogers, and all kinds of This book gave me a lot of food for thought on many different levels -- about what it means to be a performer, about Fleisher's struggle with focal dystonia, about the upper echelons of the music world. Well-written and engaging, this memoir takes the reader on a journey through the life of a piano prodigy with all its ups and downs. There are plenty of cameos, not just by virtually every giant of the classical music scene from 1950-2000, but also people like Oprah, Mr. Rogers, and all kinds of people Fleisher met in the course of his incredible life. "I have mixed feelings about competitions. I've never been sure what they really achieve. They're so antimusical. They tend to reflect the opinions of the jury rather than any kind of objective criteria. If you have a jury whose members communicate well and think alike, that's one thing, but what's depressing today is that you find the panels made up of people from all different schools of thought and walks of life, and the competitor who winds up winning is the one who least offends the greatest number of jurors. It's hard for anybody with a quirky or distinctive point of view to get by; instead, you end up with the lowest common denominator. The jurors hate to be embarrassed, so they pick the performer who's the closest to machine-perfect. And very often you find virtually the same jury at different competitions all over the world. The same canapé-eating people, sitting in judgment, over and over." (97) "...I felt as if everything were unraveling. The more I played, the more strung out and flabby my arm felt. It was like writing on sand and immediately seeing the traces of what you'd done smoothed over by the waves. I had more and more trouble reaching a point where I felt as if the work were actually achieving something." (150) "Playing in public isn't quite like any other experience. It's an opportunity to be connected to the music and to include everyone in a definition of what this particular piece of music is about. You feel a connection to it and a sort of proprietary air: you really know something about this piece, and here it is. Your relationship to the piece crystallizes in an absolutely unique manner that doesn't occur under any other circumstances. The moment is there, and that moment is irretrievable and unlike any other. It's an amazing feeling. And my life, before the problem with my hand, had been filled with just such moments. Now I could barely even enjoy it, because I was just focused on getting through it without messing up..." (208)

  11. 5 out of 5

    David

    For me, Leon Fleisher has always been just another name from the vast ocean that is the world of classical music. Over the years I've had my favorites, but Fleisher was only known to me from music catalogs and the occasional recording. In reading his story, I enjoyed the chance to get to know the person behind the name. What I did not expect was just how engaging his story would be. My Nine Lives is a moving, insightful, humorous personal story of triumph that drew me right in. Fleisher and co-a For me, Leon Fleisher has always been just another name from the vast ocean that is the world of classical music. Over the years I've had my favorites, but Fleisher was only known to me from music catalogs and the occasional recording. In reading his story, I enjoyed the chance to get to know the person behind the name. What I did not expect was just how engaging his story would be. My Nine Lives is a moving, insightful, humorous personal story of triumph that drew me right in. Fleisher and co-author Anne Midgette tell his story in a clear, readable style that is chock full of engaging anecdotes, but always seems to move forward at just the right pace. There's plenty of wry humor, but also substantial depth and introspection. Fleisher begins his story with his childhood as a piano prodigy. He studied with Artur Schnabel in Italy and then in New York, and went on to win piano competitions and a successful career as a concerto soloist. At 36, the 4th and 5th fingers on his right hand began to have problems that would affect his playing for most of the rest of his life. Fleisher learned to deal with the loss, all the while searching for cures, and went on to new experiences in conducting, teaching, and performing left-hand repertoire, before eventually regaining much of the use of his right hand in his 60's. A particular highlight are the "Master Classes," and other passages where Fleisher describes specific works that are important to him and played a central role in his musical development. For me, these sections are a perfect springboard for diving into some listening that I may not have had occasion to focus on before, such as the Brahms piano concerto #1, or the Beethoven piano concertos. Fleisher is not a perfect man, but his story is ultimately one of triumph. He worked hard, felt deeply, and didn't give up. And though it seemed that his life's work might be taken from him, he continued to create, to inspire, and to grow.

  12. 4 out of 5

    P.Reviewer

    I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads. "My Nine Lives" by Leon Fleisher and Anne Midgette is one of the most fascinating books I've ever read. Despite having little to no knowledge of musical symphonies and "Brahms D Minor concertos", I really enjoyed this book. The details of Fleisher's life, from the injury that caused him to lose the last two fingers on his right hand (when he was moving the patio table out and ended up hitting a door frame) to his various musical achieve I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads. "My Nine Lives" by Leon Fleisher and Anne Midgette is one of the most fascinating books I've ever read. Despite having little to no knowledge of musical symphonies and "Brahms D Minor concertos", I really enjoyed this book. The details of Fleisher's life, from the injury that caused him to lose the last two fingers on his right hand (when he was moving the patio table out and ended up hitting a door frame) to his various musical achievements (becoming a music conductor and a music teacher) are superbly written. I normally don't read autobiographies because I generally find them boring, but this was definitely a book that caught my interest. The trauma that Fleisher had to go through was tough and really emotional, and his descriptions of having to go to so many different doctors to find a successful treatment are truly heartbreaking. But I never once got the feeling of self-pity from Fleisher. It's just an honest, sometimes humorous account, especially when he described some of the wacky treatments that the doctors suggested! The rage Fleisher felt was easily understandable, as was his anxiety of having to feed five children while simultaneously teaching and conducting music. And his journey to achieving success even with his "handi-cap" is truly inspiring. My one (minor) criticism with this book was that sometimes the book rambles. It certainly is beautifully written, but I found myself sometimes getting lost. For example, Fleisher would be talking about his marriage, and then suddenly, would start talking about his hair. It was like a stream of conciousness. It barely decreased my enjoyment of the book, though. Overall, this is a great book that I would definitely recommend to anyone, musicians and non-musicians alike. It's an inspiring journey, and I ended up finishing it in a day, despite its legnth.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dianna

    When I saw this book, I knew I would read it, even though I didn't know much about Leon Fleisher. I'm a violinist, not a pianist, but I found it incredibly inspirational that Leon Fleisher suffered from career-stopping hand injuries, moved on to have a fulfilling career in teaching and conducting, and then found solutions to his problems and was able to perform again. This book is an education in itself to an amateur musician like me. It's hard to realize sometimes how much work and heart and lif When I saw this book, I knew I would read it, even though I didn't know much about Leon Fleisher. I'm a violinist, not a pianist, but I found it incredibly inspirational that Leon Fleisher suffered from career-stopping hand injuries, moved on to have a fulfilling career in teaching and conducting, and then found solutions to his problems and was able to perform again. This book is an education in itself to an amateur musician like me. It's hard to realize sometimes how much work and heart and life go into the music made by real artists like Mr. Fleisher. Just because someone is a child prodigy doesn't mean that he can just sit down at the piano and play automatically—he must practice for hours every day and learn the ins and outs not only of the music, but of the business. I found this book enjoyable and educational, and I think that most musicians and music-lovers would like it. I think teachers and pianists will find it more useful than others, but as a violinist I still enjoyed reading about all the big names in music that he worked with and just about his whole music-making process, and how much he cares about it all.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Emily Brother

    My Nine Lives is an autobiography written by the renowned pianist, teacher, and conductor, Leon Fleisher, and it details the various careers within music that he pursued as a consequence of injuring his right hand. I loved this book for many of the same reasons that I enjoyed Lang Lang's autobiography (ranked after this book), the primary reason being that I love being able to connect with a member of the classical music world and relate to his or her struggles with being a musician, pursuing a My Nine Lives is an autobiography written by the renowned pianist, teacher, and conductor, Leon Fleisher, and it details the various careers within music that he pursued as a consequence of injuring his right hand. I loved this book for many of the same reasons that I enjoyed Lang Lang's autobiography (ranked after this book), the primary reason being that I love being able to connect with a member of the classical music world and relate to his or her struggles with being a musician, pursuing a career, and realizing satisfaction. Due to the similar nature of this autobiography and that of Lang Lang (although their individual stories are vastly different), it is important to note why I ranked this book ahead of the latter. Leon Fleisher expertly included "masterclass" chapters on pieces of music that were relevant and meaningful during various periods of his existence. He inserted these instructional segments after first showing how the piece of music in question influenced his life and this inclusion of his musical commentary in addition to his life story made his autobiography really stand out.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I've played the piano--albeit not very seriously--for nearly 20 years. This book was therefore a lot of fun for me to read; the story itself was interesting and moving, and the Master Class sections were illuminating and expressive. Some parts may be a bit puzzling for readers without musical backgrounds, however. I found it helpful to keep YouTube open on my laptop as I read the book so I could listen to some of the pieces as they were discussed, and I was often inspired to sit down at the pian I've played the piano--albeit not very seriously--for nearly 20 years. This book was therefore a lot of fun for me to read; the story itself was interesting and moving, and the Master Class sections were illuminating and expressive. Some parts may be a bit puzzling for readers without musical backgrounds, however. I found it helpful to keep YouTube open on my laptop as I read the book so I could listen to some of the pieces as they were discussed, and I was often inspired to sit down at the piano for long stretches of time after reading. Ultimately, I didn't think this book was quite as much about the author (who I found somewhat unlikeable), or the author's career in music, but imparts a more universal message. It's about overcoming adversity, of course, and about the pain and loss and regret felt when something you've worked so hard to achieve and have sacrificed so much for just doesn't work out as planned.

  16. 5 out of 5

    James

    This book provides an interesting insight into the classical music world through the life and career of pianist/conductor Leon Fleisher. However, it suffers (like many auto-biographies) from excessive name-dropping and you-had-to-be-there moments. Additionally, I think the book glosses over the author's multiple infidelities and his failures as a father in a way that is offensive. Overall, though, it is worth a read. The author's perspective as a performer and conductor at the highest levels of This book provides an interesting insight into the classical music world through the life and career of pianist/conductor Leon Fleisher. However, it suffers (like many auto-biographies) from excessive name-dropping and you-had-to-be-there moments. Additionally, I think the book glosses over the author's multiple infidelities and his failures as a father in a way that is offensive. Overall, though, it is worth a read. The author's perspective as a performer and conductor at the highest levels of classical music is invaluable, and his passion for the music comes through in his writing. You may want to keep something soft and non-breakable handy to throw when he talks about his family life, though.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Really a lot of fun if you are into classical music. This guy is a bit older then I am so the personalities he discusses are many people whom I have heard on the concert stage either as soloists or conductors or in recordings.It is a personal journey as he lost the use of his right hand midway in his career and he does not shy away from chronicling the impact. His hand now has much restored function but at 83 he does not do much concert playing. An interesting tenacious music loving personality.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    I think I am biased about this book, but I completely loved it. I was so drawn in to the different personalities of the people he met and worked with. I wish I could study piano on Lake Como (minus the enormous pressure of performing)!! I was only slightly disappointed in his character, leaving his "opus 1" and "opus 2" but he acknowledges that is one of the regrets of his life. Very interesting and entertaining book - and for a pianist the Masterclass chapters were gold! I am such a nerd but I I think I am biased about this book, but I completely loved it. I was so drawn in to the different personalities of the people he met and worked with. I wish I could study piano on Lake Como (minus the enormous pressure of performing)!! I was only slightly disappointed in his character, leaving his "opus 1" and "opus 2" but he acknowledges that is one of the regrets of his life. Very interesting and entertaining book - and for a pianist the Masterclass chapters were gold! I am such a nerd but I could hardly put this book down.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Vicky Riggio

    I had the chance to read this book courtesy of Good Reads First Reads. Leon Fleisher is a fascinating individual. Having had the opportunity from a young age to study with many of the great musicians of the world he brings you not only inside of his life but gives you a peek into theirs as well. I did struggle with this book a bit due to my personal lack of knowledge regarding the musical pieces Fleisher discusses in his book. Overall, interesting but a bit of a harder read for me.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    An amazing book! I loved the way Fleisher wrote about his life in such vivid detail - from the loss of his fingers to his career achievements and life downfalls and uprisings. An amazing memoir, to be certain! I was most struck by how he is able to trace his line of teachers back through the ages all the way to Beethoven - that's so amazing! I received this book as part of the FirstReads program, and I'm glad I did! An amazing book! I loved the way Fleisher wrote about his life in such vivid detail - from the loss of his fingers to his career achievements and life downfalls and uprisings. An amazing memoir, to be certain! I was most struck by how he is able to trace his line of teachers back through the ages all the way to Beethoven - that's so amazing! I received this book as part of the FirstReads program, and I'm glad I did!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    This is a very interesting autobio. Fleisher has made a stunning recovery from use of his right hand as a pianist after having lost its use. Even his early years becoming a famed pianist is interesting as he details his encounters with many of the music world. I found this book a good read. If you have musical interests, I am certain you would enjoy it. Fleisher's humor, good cheer and likeable personality shines throughout the book. This is a very interesting autobio. Fleisher has made a stunning recovery from use of his right hand as a pianist after having lost its use. Even his early years becoming a famed pianist is interesting as he details his encounters with many of the music world. I found this book a good read. If you have musical interests, I am certain you would enjoy it. Fleisher's humor, good cheer and likeable personality shines throughout the book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shell

    I really enjoyed this book! As a professional musician, I can relate to almost everything the Fleisher went through -- teachers, practicing, memory slips, isolation, injury, etc. I thought the best parts of the book were the master classes about specific pieces of music. I found them insightful, unique, and enlightening. I borrowed this book from the library, but I think I'm going to go purchase a copy for my shelf. I really enjoyed this book! As a professional musician, I can relate to almost everything the Fleisher went through -- teachers, practicing, memory slips, isolation, injury, etc. I thought the best parts of the book were the master classes about specific pieces of music. I found them insightful, unique, and enlightening. I borrowed this book from the library, but I think I'm going to go purchase a copy for my shelf.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid

    Fleisher the musician has a very interesting and diverse story. Fleisher the human proves to be a terrible husband, an adulterer many times over and a father who abandons his children. This book makes for a good read, especially for a classical musician, but the last chapter completely ruined it for me. Instead of gratefully acknowledging the honor of the Kennedy center award he had to take up multiple pages on why he hates the president who presented him with that honor. Poor taste.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Philip Seaton

    I must admit, had I not won this book I probably wouldn't have read it, and I also must admit that subject was not overly interesting to me a first, but it did catch me and reel me after a while and then I couldn't put it down. You had me a "Leon at Hello", ok bad and corny, but the book is well-written, interesting and inspirational at the same time. Highly recommend! I must admit, had I not won this book I probably wouldn't have read it, and I also must admit that subject was not overly interesting to me a first, but it did catch me and reel me after a while and then I couldn't put it down. You had me a "Leon at Hello", ok bad and corny, but the book is well-written, interesting and inspirational at the same time. Highly recommend!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mariana

    I won this book on good-reads first-reads. I am liking reading it, but it has a lot of people and music terminology in it I have no idea about. I am going to take awhile to get through it, but I am going to because it is well written and interesting. I don't usually read biographys, but this one is like looking in an era I knew nothing about, but would have loved. I won this book on good-reads first-reads. I am liking reading it, but it has a lot of people and music terminology in it I have no idea about. I am going to take awhile to get through it, but I am going to because it is well written and interesting. I don't usually read biographys, but this one is like looking in an era I knew nothing about, but would have loved.

  26. 5 out of 5

    penny shima glanz

    I once thought I would pursue a career in music. I once thought all paths as an adult were clearly marked. I do not know if this well written and interwoven memoir would have been appreciated by a 17 year old me, but reading it in my 30s enabled me to find comfort and understanding. While not perfect (who is?), Fleisher's strength and ability to adapt is inspiring. I once thought I would pursue a career in music. I once thought all paths as an adult were clearly marked. I do not know if this well written and interwoven memoir would have been appreciated by a 17 year old me, but reading it in my 30s enabled me to find comfort and understanding. While not perfect (who is?), Fleisher's strength and ability to adapt is inspiring.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Missa

    I won a copy of this book from goodreads. Now I need to find the time to read it over the holidays!!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dad

    This was an interesting book, but I felt it would interest those people who are really into classical music. I do like all kinds of music, but this book did not really hold my interest.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Corey

    A MUST READ for any pianist or musician.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Steve Labarge

    Very engaging. With his ties to Schnabel, Szell, Monteux, Ozawa, and many others, the current day musician or fan of music gains insight to past eras of music making.

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