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Leon Fleisher papers

Identifier: PIMS-0081

Scope and Contents

The Leon Fleisher papers contain materials from 1938 to 2020, with the bulk of the materials originating from approximately 1980 to 2010. The collection, arranged in seven series, includes concert programs from Fleisher's career as a concert pianist, conductor, and master-class teacher; clippings and press releases about Fleisher from international publications; professional files related to Fleisher's travels and participation at festivals; correspondence with musicians, arts administrators, and students; photographs for publicity, press, and personal use; and audiovisual recordings of performances, interviews, and broadcast news features. The final series contains scores from Fleisher’s playing and conducting experience.


  • Creation: 1938 - 2020


Language of Materials

Materials primarily in English. Includes some programs and clippings in French, German, Italian, Dutch, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Hebrew, Spanish, and Portuguese. A few letters in French.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for use at the Peabody Archives. Contact for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright. All requests for permission to publish or perform materials in this collection must be submitted in writing to the archivist of the Arthur Friedheim Library.

Biographical / Historical

Leon Fleisher (1928-2020) was a pianist, teacher, and conductor. Born in 1928 in San Francisco, the child prodigy began to study the piano at the age of 4 and by the age of 9, the legendary Artur Schnabel invited him to be his student, first in Lake Como, Italy, and then in New York, where Schnabel nurtured and inspired the young Fleisher for the next 10 years as he evolved into one of the great music masters of our time. Leon Fleisher made his debut with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Pierre Monteux, when he was 16 years old. Maître Monteux called him "the pianistic find of the century."

Fleisher went on to international renown, becoming the first American to win the prestigious Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Competition in Brussels in 1952. He subsequently enjoyed a prolific recording career, most notably with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, recordings recognized as among the great collaborations in the concerto repertoire. In 1965, before a scheduled tour of Russia with the Cleveland Orchestra, Leon Fleisher began to suffer symptoms of a debilitating condition of his right hand, later diagnosed as focal dystonia, a neurological condition that causes the fingers to curl into the palm of the hand.

After a period of great despair, Fleisher channeled his creativity in new directions, mastering the piano repertoire for left hand and initiating a career in conducting for ensembles such as the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He was a cofounder and conductor of the Theater Chamber Players, which performed contemporary chamber music at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts from 1968 to the early 2000s, and taught at Tanglewood in the 1980s and 1990s. He renewed his dedication to teaching at Peabody, where he has been the inspiration to hundreds of students since 1959. Leon Fleisher holds the Andrew W. Mellon Chair at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. As a teacher, he has carried on a tradition that descends directly from Beethoven himself, handed down generationally through Carl Czerny, Theodor Leschetizky, Artur Schnabel, and Leon Fleisher himself.

In the mid-'90s, with the combined therapies of Botox injections and Rolfing, he regained sufficient use of his right hand, leading to an extraordinary career renaissance. In 2003, Fleisher joined forces with his wife, pianist Katherine Jacobson, to form the Fleisher-Jacobson Duo, giving concerts world-wide and recording for Sony Classical. Leon Fleisher released the album Two Hands in 2004, which went on to hold a Top 5 Billboard Chart position and was hailed by critics as one of the best recordings of the year. Two Hands is also the title of the Oscar nominated documentary film about his amazing life story. In 2013, Sony Classical issued a 23-CD box set of his entire recorded output, and in 2014, Fleisher released his first solo CD in a decade, the Grammy nominated All The Things You Are.

In 2006, in Paris, Leon Fleisher received the honor of Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters by the Minister of Culture of the French government. Fleisher received a John F. Kennedy Center Honors award in 2007 as a "consummate musician whose career is a testament to the life-affirming power of art."

Fleisher continued teaching at Peabody and maintaining an international schedule of master classes, performances, and orchestral guest conducting until his death in 2020.

Biographical information adapted from (accessed February 12, 2018).


10.98 Cubic Feet (31 boxes)


Pianist, conductor, and teacher Leon Fleisher (1928-2020) has had a career in music stretching more than 70 years, including nearly 50 years as a faculty member of the Peabody Conservatory of Music. After making his debut at age 16 with Pierre Monteux conducting, Fleisher toured internationally as a soloist until a neurological condition caused him to lose the full use of his right hand. After three decades of focusing on performing the piano repertoire for the left hand, conducting various ensembles, and teaching, Fleisher received therapies that allowed him to regain the use of both hands and embark on a renaissance in his performing and recording career. The Leon Fleisher papers include concert programs, professional documents, correspondence, clippings, photographs, recordings, and scores from his career as a pianist, conductor, and educator.


The collection is arranged in seven series: Programs, Clippings, Professional papers, Correspondence, Photographs, Scores, and Audiovisual materials. Series 6: Scores has two subseries: 6.1: Works for Piano Left Hand, and 6.2: Other Works.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Some recordings in series 6 are on obsolete videocassette formats such as Hi8 and Ampex Betacam. Therefore, access to these items may be limited depending on the physical condition of each item and the repository's ability to support the playback of recordings stored on outdated media.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Multiple accessions from 1995 to 2023, with the bulk of the collection donated in 2009-2011. Most materials donated by Leon Fleisher, Katherine Jacobson Fleisher, and their management agency, Frank Salomon Associates. Some photographs, clippings, and recordings appear to have been transferred by the communications office of the Peabody Institute following an exhibit and event in 1999.

Existence and Location of Copies

Most concert programs and clippings from series 1 and 2, as well as several other documents and photographs, have been digitized and are available online at the Leon Fleisher digital collection:

Related Materials

The Peabody Archives at the Arthur Friedheim Library also holds the Theater Chamber Players records (PIMS.0070), which includes administrative documents, scores, and recordings of the chamber ensemble cofounded by Leon Fleisher and Dina Koston. The papers of Fleisher's wife, pianist Katherine Jacobson Fleisher, are also held at the Peabody Archives.

Fleisher's 2010 autobiography with Anne Midgette, My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music, and various commercial recordings are available for circulation at the Arthur Friedheim Library and can be located through the library catalog.

A 1999 interview with Leon Fleisher for the Johns Hopkins University oral history collection is available at

Additional information files about Fleisher are available in the Peabody Archives.

Processing Information

Processed by multiple archivists from 2010 to 2012 and by Matt Testa in 2018. Material received in 2022 and 2023 was processed by Natalie Salive, including the addition of the Scores series.

Guide to the Leon Fleisher papers
Matt Testa
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Peabody Archives Repository

Peabody Institute
1 E. Mount Vernon Place
Baltimore MD 21202 USA