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My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers at the Keyboard

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  93 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
The stirring memoir of one of the greatest pianists of the postwar era--an inspiring tale of triumph over crippling incapacity that rivals "Shine."
The pianist Leon Fleisher--whose student-teacher lineage linked him to Beethoven by way of his instructor, Artur Schnabel--displayed an exceptional gift from his earliest years. Andthen, like the hero of a Greek tragedy, he was
ebook, 240 pages
Published November 30th 2010 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2010)
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Feb 12, 2013 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, music, non-fiction
It was a pleasure learning about the life of one of my favorite pianists. Leon Fleisher has indeed lead a full existence, starting from the age of seven, when he performed as a child prodigy. His career was brilliant and varied, exposing him to a wide variety of noted performers, conductors and composers. It almost came to an end, when he suddenly and mysteriously lost the use of his right hand at the age of 36. How he coped with this plight and his attitude provided much fuel for this memoir. H ...more
Steve Smits
Dec 29, 2010 Steve Smits rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When looking at liner notes or reference works on classical music I am often struck by the short life spans of many great composers: Mozart - 35 years; Chopin - 39; Schubert - 31; Schumann - 46; Mendelssohn - 38. What music we've missed due to the early deaths of these musical giants. Would that they had lived as long as Hayden (78).

Leon Fleisher, thankfully, still lives on at age 82. This book is the story of his life in music; a story full of tragedy and loss, but also of renewal and inspirati
Book Him Danno
Interesting and lots of music talk. The people he met and trained with or trained, were impressive. I love that he can trace his teacher back, through teachers, to Beethoven. He seemed to have the same problems many celebrities have with personal relationships, three marriages and two families of children(opus 1 and opus 2). As most celebrities he felt the need to share his political views at the end of the book. He is disgusted with the current president and his policies, I had to agree with hi ...more
When I received this book, I thought "Ugh, not another boring autobiography." but I am both ashamed and relieved to admit that I was wrong. This book is wonderfully written. It captured my attention and I couldn't put it down. The picturesque writing made me feel as though I was living this life myself. I also loved the pictures in the book. I am a very visual person, and it was awesome to view glimpses of the authors life.
Paul Frandano
Aug 16, 2014 Paul Frandano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, great-wo-men
Leon Fleisher gives us perhaps two lives or so too many. I adored the first two hundred pages of this autobiography, which were filled with Fleisher's reminiscences of San Francisco's brilliant Jewish musical scene, which produced Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, and, of course, Fleisher, of his legendary teacher, Artur Schnabel, who invited the 9-year-old Fleisher to Lago di Como for summer instruction, his driven mother's (successful) quest to advance the career of her bubbeleh, his remarkable rel ...more
May 06, 2011 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, music, memoir
This book gave me a lot of food for thought on many different levels -- about what it means to be a performer, about Fleisher's struggle with focal dystonia, about the upper echelons of the music world. Well-written and engaging, this memoir takes the reader on a journey through the life of a piano prodigy with all its ups and downs. There are plenty of cameos, not just by virtually every giant of the classical music scene from 1950-2000, but also people like Oprah, Mr. Rogers, and all kinds of ...more
For me, Leon Fleisher has always been just another name from the vast ocean that is the world of classical music. Over the years I've had my favorites, but Fleisher was only known to me from music catalogs and the occasional recording. In reading his story, I enjoyed the chance to get to know the person behind the name. What I did not expect was just how engaging his story would be. My Nine Lives is a moving, insightful, humorous personal story of triumph that drew me right in. Fleisher and co-a ...more
Nov 29, 2010 P.Reviewer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

"My Nine Lives" by Leon Fleisher and Anne Midgette is one of the most fascinating books I've ever read. Despite having little to no knowledge of musical symphonies and "Brahms D Minor concertos", I really enjoyed this book. The details of Fleisher's life, from the injury that caused him to lose the last two fingers on his right hand (when he was moving the patio table out and ended up hitting a door frame) to his various musical achieve
Nov 22, 2010 Dianna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
When I saw this book, I knew I would read it, even though I didn't know much about Leon Fleisher. I'm a violinist, not a pianist, but I found it incredibly inspirational that Leon Fleisher suffered from career-stopping hand injuries, moved on to have a fulfilling career in teaching and conducting, and then found solutions to his problems and was able to perform again.

This book is an education in itself to an amateur musician like me. It's hard to realize sometimes how much work and heart and lif
Emily Brother
My Nine Lives is an autobiography written by the renowned pianist, teacher, and conductor, Leon Fleisher, and it details the various careers within music that he pursued as a consequence of injuring his right hand. I loved this book for many of the same reasons that I enjoyed Lang Lang's autobiography (ranked after this book), the primary reason being that I love being able to connect with a member of the classical music world and relate to his or her struggles with being a musician, pursuing a ...more
I've played the piano--albeit not very seriously--for nearly 20 years. This book was therefore a lot of fun for me to read; the story itself was interesting and moving, and the Master Class sections were illuminating and expressive. Some parts may be a bit puzzling for readers without musical backgrounds, however. I found it helpful to keep YouTube open on my laptop as I read the book so I could listen to some of the pieces as they were discussed, and I was often inspired to sit down at the pian ...more
This book provides an interesting insight into the classical music world through the life and career of pianist/conductor Leon Fleisher. However, it suffers (like many auto-biographies) from excessive name-dropping and you-had-to-be-there moments. Additionally, I think the book glosses over the author's multiple infidelities and his failures as a father in a way that is offensive. Overall, though, it is worth a read. The author's perspective as a performer and conductor at the highest levels of ...more
Sarah Smith
Even if you know nothing about music at all, you will be enlightened by Leon Fleisher's candid and intelligent memoir-cum-master class. Fleisher, a child piano prodigy, grew up to be one of the major American pianists before losing the use of one hand. After many years of work, he got it back. Fleisher talks about his life warts and all--he considers himself far more of a success as a pianist than as a father or husband--but the greatest delight of this book is Fleisher talking about music. He h ...more
Jan 25, 2011 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really a lot of fun if you are into classical music. This guy is a bit older then I am so the personalities he discusses are many people whom I have heard on the concert stage either as soloists or conductors or in recordings.It is a personal journey as he lost the use of his right hand midway in his career and he does not shy away from chronicling the impact. His hand now has much restored function but at 83 he does not do much concert playing. An interesting tenacious music loving personality.
Feb 02, 2011 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think I am biased about this book, but I completely loved it. I was so drawn in to the different personalities of the people he met and worked with. I wish I could study piano on Lake Como (minus the enormous pressure of performing)!! I was only slightly disappointed in his character, leaving his "opus 1" and "opus 2" but he acknowledges that is one of the regrets of his life. Very interesting and entertaining book - and for a pianist the Masterclass chapters were gold! I am such a nerd but I ...more
Aug 03, 2011 Shell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book! As a professional musician, I can relate to almost everything the Fleisher went through -- teachers, practicing, memory slips, isolation, injury, etc. I thought the best parts of the book were the master classes about specific pieces of music. I found them insightful, unique, and enlightening. I borrowed this book from the library, but I think I'm going to go purchase a copy for my shelf.
This is a very interesting autobio. Fleisher has made a stunning recovery from use of his right hand as a pianist after having lost its use. Even his early years becoming a famed pianist is interesting as he details his encounters with many of the music world. I found this book a good read. If you have musical interests, I am certain you would enjoy it. Fleisher's humor, good cheer and likeable personality shines throughout the book.
Vicky Riggio
I had the chance to read this book courtesy of Good Reads First Reads.

Leon Fleisher is a fascinating individual. Having had the opportunity from a young age to study with many of the great musicians of the world he brings you not only inside of his life but gives you a peek into theirs as well.

I did struggle with this book a bit due to my personal lack of knowledge regarding the musical pieces Fleisher discusses in his book.

Overall, interesting but a bit of a harder read for me.
Aug 06, 2013 Ingrid rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Fleisher the musician has a very interesting and diverse story. Fleisher the human proves to be a terrible husband, an adulterer many times over and a father who abandons his children.

This book makes for a good read, especially for a classical musician, but the last chapter completely ruined it for me. Instead of gratefully acknowledging the honor of the Kennedy center award he had to take up multiple pages on why he hates the president who presented him with that honor. Poor taste.
Nov 29, 2010 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amazing book! I loved the way Fleisher wrote about his life in such vivid detail - from the loss of his fingers to his career achievements and life downfalls and uprisings. An amazing memoir, to be certain! I was most struck by how he is able to trace his line of teachers back through the ages all the way to Beethoven - that's so amazing!

I received this book as part of the FirstReads program, and I'm glad I did!
Philip Seaton
Nov 29, 2010 Philip Seaton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I must admit, had I not won this book I probably wouldn't have read it, and I also must admit that subject was not overly interesting to me a first, but it did catch me and reel me after a while and then I couldn't put it down. You had me a "Leon at Hello", ok bad and corny, but the book is well-written, interesting and inspirational at the same time. Highly recommend!
penny shima glanz
I once thought I would pursue a career in music. I once thought all paths as an adult were clearly marked. I do not know if this well written and interwoven memoir would have been appreciated by a 17 year old me, but reading it in my 30s enabled me to find comfort and understanding. While not perfect (who is?), Fleisher's strength and ability to adapt is inspiring.
I won this book on good-reads first-reads. I am liking reading it, but it has a lot of people and music terminology in it I have no idea about. I am going to take awhile to get through it, but I am going to because it is well written and interesting. I don't usually read biographys, but this one is like looking in an era I knew nothing about, but would have loved.
Oct 21, 2014 Martha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a great book, but very interesting if you knew part of Leon Fleisher's story and wanted to know more.
Nov 23, 2010 Missa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won a copy of this book from goodreads. Now I need to find the time to read it over the holidays!!
Nov 29, 2010 Dad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting book, but I felt it would interest those people who are really into classical music. I do like all kinds of music, but this book did not really hold my interest.
Steve Labarge
Aug 29, 2012 Steve Labarge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very engaging. With his ties to Schnabel, Szell, Monteux, Ozawa, and many others, the current day musician or fan of music gains insight to past eras of music making.
Dec 27, 2010 Corey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, bio-memoir, own
A MUST READ for any pianist or musician.
Filipe Cerqueira
A little bit egocentric.
And what a story about life and his problems.
Helen Epstein
Helen Epstein rated it really liked it
Jan 25, 2011
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“The first problem I had with conducting was coming out on stage and turning my back on the audience. It was an utterly foreign sensation. I always felt as if my rear end were hanging out. That particular portion of my anatomy suddenly seemed enormous, living a life of its own, engaged in its own relationship with the public behind my back. For the first couple of years I conducted, I sat on a chair in front of the orchestra, to help quell that particular discomfort.” 1 likes
“ a pianist, I can’t say I was always a big fan of contemporary music. The challenge of late Beethoven, or Mozart, or Schubert seemed to me to be somehow greater or more worthwhile than that of learning difficult, ill-placed notes. To me, the kind of transcendence in the older pieces really was more interesting. That’s not to say I didn’t love the contemporary pieces I did play. I became very attached to the ones I learned, and I played them with pleasure and absolute commitment. It may be terrible to say this, but playing some of that music is like having a handicapped child. You love it all the more for the problems that it gives you.” 1 likes
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