U.S. pianist gets British music award

Tue May 10, 2011 4:40pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - American pianist Leon Fleisher, 82, who spent much of his career unable to use his right hand, was honored as instrumentalist of the year by Britain's Royal Philharmonic Society on Tuesday.

Fleisher, a child prodigy whose book "My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Years in Music" describes his loss of dexterity in his right hand at the peak of his career, and his battle over four decades to regain its use, was cited for "extraordinary" performances at the 2010 Aldeburgh festival in eastern England.

As if to confirm the avant garde is alive and well, the RPS at a glittering ceremony in a hotel ballroom also gave Scottish composer James Dillon, a proponent of the "New Complexity" school, his fourth award.

The RPS cited Dillon's uncompromising, 200-minute-long orchestral, choral and electronic piece Nine Rivers, which had to wait some 20 years for its first complete performance in Glasgow last year, for its "sheer ambition."

English composer Brian Ferneyhough, whose works are as demanding as Dillon's, won the chamber award for his String Quartet No. 6.

London's Southbank Center got the concert series and festivals award for devoting a weekend to the music of German composer Helmut Lachenmann, who requires musicians to play their instruments in unorthodox ways.

RPS chairman John Gilhooly said the awards were given for "serious, imaginative projects which broaden the understanding and enjoyment of music and trumpet the outstanding brilliance of distinguished musicians, composers and young artists at the very top of their game."

Among the younger generation, the RPS singled out the fast-rising Russian-born violinist Alina Ibragimova, whose 2009 recording of Bach's sonatas and partitas for solo violin won rave reviews.   Continued...

<p>Pianist Leon Fleisher talks with reporters as he arrives for the Kennedy Center Honors show in Washington, December 2, 2007. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst</p>