On August 2, 2020, Fred Bronstein, dean of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, released the following statement, upon news of the death of Leon Fleisher.  

“With the passing of Leon Fleisher, the music world has lost one of its towering figures. Our hearts go out to Leon’s wife, Katherine, and his family and loved ones. For members of the Peabody family, it is a deeply personal loss. The name of Leon Fleisher has been synonymous with the Peabody Institute for more than six decades, his home since 1959. Leon’s remarkable gifts as a musician, pianist, and teacher, were matched only by his charm, wit, intelligence and warmth as a human being.

“As a member of the Peabody Conservatory faculty, Mr. Fleisher provided inspiration, guidance, and singular insight to hundreds of students over the years both in his piano studio and on the podium. His approach to teaching went as deep as possible – showing young artists how to connect a love of music to the world around them. 

“It seems simplistic to say that there was no one else like Leon. But that is the essence of it. We were extremely fortunate to have had this man in our midst for so many years. His impact here is profound and lasting, and his absence will be felt keenly throughout the Peabody community. We have lost a giant.” 

Memorial Contributions

Contributions in memory of Leon Fleisher may be directed to:


As a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007, pianist Leon Fleisher was recognized as a “consummate musician whose career is a testament to the life-affirming power of art.”

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. 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 Leschititsky, 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 celebration of his 90th year, he appeared in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal as soloist with the Toronto Symphony and at the Gilmore Festival. He continued teaching and conducting online master classes into the final weeks of his life.

Johann Sebastian Bach: Sheep May Safely Graze

Leon Fleisher performs Johann Sebastian Bach's Sheep May Safely Graze on October 30, 2019.

Mozart: Concerto for Two Pianos

Leon Fleisher, guest conductor

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550
Concerto for Two Pianos
Symphony No. 35 in D major, K. 385, "Haffner"
Peabody Chamber Orchestra
Tian Lu, piano
Yury Shadrin, piano

Leon Fleisher - Peabody Commencement 2018

Leon Fleisher, Andrew W. Mellon Chair in Piano, receives the George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music in America at the Peabody Conservatory's 2018 commencement ceremony.

Teacher Sublime

During nearly six decades at Peabody, pianist Leon Fleisher has launched countless influential careers – offering unparalleled wisdom and insight that transcends the act of music-making.

Fleisher Digital Collection

More than 1,000 concert and master class programs, press material, correspondence, itineraries, photographs, clippings, personal papers, and memorabilia digitized by the Peabody Archives.

Advice for the Class of 2015

Renowned pianist Leon Fleisher received an honorary degree from Johns Hopkins University during Commencement ceremonies the spring of 2015. When asked to impart a piece of advice to the graduating class, the famed musician championed the value of silence and made a surprise observation about the hidden power of putting things off.

Peabody Symphony Orchestra with Leon Fleisher

Maurice Ravel: Introduction and Allegro
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major
Franz Schubert: Symphony No. 9 in C major, "The Great"
Jasmine Hogan, Harp
Soovin Kim, Violin

Leon Fleisher Reflects

Fleisher was interviewed live by Peabody faculty member Ray Sprenkle -- a noted composer, historian and lecturer -- against the backdrop of the gorgeous Peabody Library.

WYPR's Leon Fleisher: Remembering A Musical Giant

WYPR's Midday host Tom Hall speaks with Anne Midgette, who collaborated with Leon on "My Nine Lives: A Musical Memoir," and alumni Lura Johnson and Michael Sheppard, both of whom studied with Leon Fleisher at Peabody.

Leon Fleisher Honored in Congress

Leon Fleisher was honored in the House of Representatives on August 11, 2020.

Share Your Memories and Reflections

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