Friday, January 18, 2019

SFP to Celebrate Leon Fleisher’s 90th Birthday

Celebrant and celebrator: pianists Leon Fleisher and Jonathan Biss (from the SFP event page for this concert)

As was initially announced last summer, San Francisco Performances (SFP) planned two “anniversary-based” programs for its 2018–2019 season. The first of these took place as part of the annual gala, which was held at the end of this past September and acknowledged the centennial of the first performance of Igor Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat (the soldier’s tale) on September 28, 1918. The second was the planned celebration of the 90th birthday of pianist Leon Fleisher, who was born in San Francisco on July 23, 1928. That celebration will take place next month; and, if it seems a bit belated, that tardiness will be compensated with some impressive programming.

Many may know that Fleisher lost the use of his right hand in 1964 through focal dystonia. However, for about two decades he has been able to lessen his symptoms through Botox injections. Following his 85th birthday he began a series of recording sessions in the Gould Recital Hall of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. The results were released by Bridge Records in July of 2014 on the album entitled All the Things You Are, which consisted of seven compositions, one of which required Fleisher using both of his hands. Two of the left-hand compositions were composed specifically for Fleisher.

The SFP celebratory concert will present performances by both Fleisher and Jonathan Biss. For one selection Fleisher will be joined by the members of the Telegraph Quartet (violinists Eric Chin and Joseph Maile, violist Pei-Ling Lin, and cellist Jeremiah Shaw), along with bassist Charles Chandler. That selection will be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s K. 414 piano concerto in A major with the five string players providing the instrumental accompaniment.

Fleisher will also play two of the selections from his All the Things You Are album, Johannes Brahms’ left-hand arrangement of the concluding Chaconne movement from Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 1004 partita for solo violin in D minor and “L.H.,” which Leon Kirchner composed for Fleisher in 1995. With both hands Fleisher will play Egon Petri’s four-hand arrangement of the soprano aria “Sheep may safely graze” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 208 secular cantata Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd (the lively hunt is all my heart’s desire). Biss will contribute two additional selections to the program, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 109 sonata in E major and Kirchner’s “Interlude II.”

This recital will be held in Herbst Theatre, beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 12. Ticket prices will be $75, $60, and $45. As of this writing, seats are still available in all price categories. They may be purchased in advance online through a City Box Office event page.