My Nine Lives
A Musical Memoir
Publication Date: November 1, 2011
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My Nine Lives is a powerful and stirring memoir of one of the greatest pianists of the postwar era—an inspiring tale of courage, compassion, and triumph over outstanding odds.
At the peak of his career, celebrated pianist Leon Fleisher suddenly lost the use of two fingers on his right hand. Miraculously, at the age of sixty-six, he was diagnosed with focal dystonia, and learned to manage it through a combination of physical therapy and experimental Botox injections. In 2003 Fleisher returned to Carnegie Hall to give his first two-handed performance in over three decades and brought down the house.
With his coauthor, celebrated music critic Anne Midgette, Fleisher reveals here for the first time the depression that threatened to engulf him as his condition worsened, and the sheer love of music that rescued him from complete self-destruction.
Born in San Francisco, LEON FLEISHER made his Carnegie Hall debut at sixteen. He was Musical America’s Instrumentalist of the Year in 1994; the subject of the 2006 Oscar-nominated short documentary Two Hands: The Leon Fleisher Story; and a 2007 Kennedy Center Honoree. He continues to tour the world on an ambitious performance schedule.
ANNE MIDGETTE is the chief classical musical critic of the Washington Post. A Yale graduate, she was previously a regular reviewer of classical music and theater for the New York Times.
“A delight. . . . Deeply felt, well-structured . . . . A great rarity.” —Wall Street Journal
“A book that is thrilling as much for its narrative suspense as for its psychological sensitivity and intellectual insights.” —Washington Post
“Here’s the real story, terrifically and frankly told, along with an enjoyable sprinkling of gossip and just enough insights to justify his reputation as the Obi-Wan Kenobi of pianists.” —Los Angeles Times
"A remarkable story, beautifully told. I think it will fascinate anyone interested in a life (or nine) lived to the hilt, from the highest peaks to the deepest valleys and – hallelujah! – back up again. It’s a great read: inspirational, cliff-hanging, informative, funny, horrific. (And furthermore, most of it is true.)" —Gary Graffman
“Amazingly informative. . . . Mr. Fleisher’s musicality jumps off the page. This is a very human story, beautifully told.” —The Washington Times
"Leon Fleisher, one of our most prodigiously talented musicians, has lived a very rich human life—many lives—reinventing himself, after a career-ending injury, as a teacher and conductor, before ultimately returning to performance. His book, like the man himself, is warm, witty, honest, and wise—and full of vivid portraits of the world of professional musicians. A bravura performance." —Oliver Sacks, M.D.
“Poignantly portray[s] the physical and mental turbulence of being a prodigy. . . . A great rarity—a book that tells the story of a personal and public triumph and also conveys an artist’s all pervading love for the instrument that has been with him for a lifetime.” —The Wall Street Journal
"Leon Fleisher's My Nine Lives is a modern-day musical ‘Odyssey’. His recounting of a fascinating life is told with great candor and philosophical wit. Musicians, of course, will gobble up this memoir from a legendary pianist; non-musicians will be enthralled by these adventures in both the outer and inner worlds of a great man. In short: a wonderful retelling of a truly epic life." —André Watts
“His performances are richly detailed in every way and with beautiful proportions. . . . [A] well-written book.” —California Chronicle
“In this candid memoir, Leon describes the many lives he has led and conveys one of the most significant of lessons: transforming adversity into triumph—and into wisdom.” —Yo-Yo Ma
“Entertaining. . . . [Musical excerpts] will sound even better now that we know the story behind them.” —Buffalo News
"Leon Fleisher is a giant among musicians. His memoir recounts the joys and sorrows of a most eventful life with the same characteristics as his playing – unflinching honesty, a probing intellect, and a very great generosity of spirit. This is a book to cherish, offering much wisdom to the reader. Read it and listen." — Ara Guzelimian, Provost and Dean of The Juilliard School