Fleisher crisp in two-handed Mozart piece

January 15, 1996|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- Leon Fleisher has been understandably reluctant to describe his recent performances of a Mozart piano concerto as a comeback. The injury that disabled his right hand for more than 30 years is still a problem, though he has been undergoing some promising rehabilitation.

Last year he felt encouraged enough to perform Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12 in A. On Saturday night he played the work with the Orchestra of St. Luke's, conducted by Andre Previn at Carnegie Hall, where in 1944 at the age of 16 he made his stunning debut.

Fleisher's right hand is not yet working as ideally as he certainly wants it to: Passagework was sometimes unclear, with little mishaps here and there. But these must have bothered him more than they bothered us. His playing was graceful and crisp; his sound resonant and limpid.

It takes technique as well as musicianship to play with such grace and character. In that sense, Fleisher's right hand was up to the task. It was his pianism, not just his courage, that deserved the long ovation he received.

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