Leon Fleischer at Strathmore: Happy Birthday

Leon Fleischer turned 80 on Wednesday (according to Wikipedia) and part of his celebration was conducting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at Strathmore last night, and playing a Mozart piano concerto (No. 12, Kirchel 325).  A very enjoyable concert, and it was good to see Fleischer, whose piano career was set back by a 30+ year paralysis in his right hand, playing so comfortably.

Our synagogue’s long time cantor developed a throat problem and could not sing any more, but he did not let it destroy him: he went back to school and is now a rabbi.  Fleischer is another example of someone who, when he no longer could play, became a conductor and remained a teacher.

A good lesson here.

It was also our first venture to Strathmore, understanding that we are probably the last people not to have gone there for something.  I thought that concert hall was quite nice, although I was surprised that a place with such good acoustics had so few soft surfaces.  My wife did point out one problem.  If you sit in the first row of a balcony (and there are many, as there are three upper tiers, two of which crawl the sides) and are female, you need to be concerned about how you sit, as the protective half-walls are slatted, rather than solid.

Our seats were really odd:  we were in the first row of the first balcony (called the promenade, I believe), but we were all the way to the side, and so far forward that the orchestra and the audience, were both to our left.  This gave us a unique view of the conductor (like he was conducting us), terrific piano acoustics (as there was nothing but air separating the piano, which had had its lid totally removed, and us), a great view of the tympanist, but a little lack of balance when the entire orchestra was playing, and particularly when the trumpets, which were right under us, were playing (which luckily was not very often).  We were sitting over the brass section for the most part, and if we had binoculars could have read their music.

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