Note to Readers on Absence and a Book Report on “My Nine Lives” by Leon Fleisher and Anne Midgette

Note to Readers: I am returned from an enriching vacation experience traveling in Cambodia (Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Angkor Wat); Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Singapore; Bali (Ubud and Jimbaran); and South Korea (Seoul, Geongju, and the DMZ). It was a three-week vacation followed by several days of brain mush from jet lag; the flight from Seoul to DC was 13 hours.  I didn’t find any live opera to attend on this trip; Korea National Opera offers western opera and Ho Chi Minh City has an impressive opera house, but I’m not sure western opera is offered there. I offer a few photos below, and I am now ready to turn my attention back to opera.

Book report: I did take advantage of the long flights to read Leon Fleisher’s and Anne Midgette’s co-authored book, “My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music”.  It is a good read that covers Fleisher’s musical career as a distinguished concert pianist, conductor, and teacher; he was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2007.  His co-author Anne Midgette, Chief Classical Music Critic for the Washington Post, ensured that it is excellently written and told.  Mr. Fleisher was a child prodigy who had embarked on a highly promising career as a piano soloist, but encountered a deformity in two fingers of his right hand in his mid-thirties in the mid-sixties.  The book details events in his personal and professional lives and how these lives were influenced by his struggles with a baffling disease affecting his right hand. He has led an exceptionally interesting life as a member of the elite crowd of classical musicians and his anecdotes about famous musicians and conductors in the second half of the twentieth century are fun to read.  There is only a brief nod to opera in the book.  By far, my personal favorite parts of the book are his descriptions of his thoughts and feelings about some of the pieces he played that were most meaningful to him; he describes what he thought the composer intended and how he tried to interpret the piece. I found that after reading each of these discussions I wanted to hear him play those pieces.  Fortunately, he has an extensive discography listed at the close of the book.  Many of these are available on Apple Music, and I have begun to listen to some of them.  The only thing I can report at this time is that I listened to a favorite of his, Brahms Piano Concert No. 1 in D-Minor.  While I liked this piece, I am more drawn to his recording of No. 2 in B-flat Major.

Jacket cover copied from Amazon.

Jacket cover copied from Amazon.

One of my agendas for reading this book was to learn more about Ms. Midgette.  I find that generally there is only limited information publically available about professional music critics, and I like to know the background of the critics that I read… frankly, to help me determine if they have the background to speak with authority.  No question that Ms. Midgette does.  There is no information about Ms. Midgette in the book itself, but the fact that she has been involved in a working relationship with such an illustrious member of the classical music community speaks well of her qualifications.  I have found her to be an outstanding critic, knowledgeable and insightful, and an excellent writer and journalist.  I rarely miss reading a column about opera of hers and often point to them on the pages of this blog.



Click on a photo to move to the next photo: Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Angkor Wat in Cambodia; view of Ho Chi Minh City at night; shop in Ho Chi Minh City offering rice from different regions; Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore; villa in the interior of Bali; traditional dance in Bali; noodle shop in Seoul, South Korea; Royal Palace in Seoul, South Korea; Buddhist temple in Geongju, Korea; UN guards from South Korean and American forces facing across the border into North Korea in the DMZ.