Bartlesville’s OK Mozart Festival Opens

Contributing Editor

TRIUMPHANT CONDUCTOR: Leon Fleisher and his wife pianist Katherine Jacobson-Fleisher will conduct and perform in the 2007 OK MOZART grand finale concert June 16.

Courtesy OK MOZART

When OK Mozart holds its 23rd season in Bartlesville June 8-16, pianist Leon Fleisher will appear as guest artist and conductor with Amici New York on the final day. Those who love an improbably happy ending will want to attend. They will also want to cheer.

Fleisher was appearing with major symphony orchestras while still a teenager. As a young adult he produced a series of recordings that had the critics hailing his genius. Then, in 1964, at the age of 36, he noticed the third and fourth fingers of his right hand beginning to curl in.

At first he tried to play through it, but the effort quickly became too exhausting. He went to the finest specialists. Many of them had theories as to what was wrong but none knew how to correct it.

It was a blow that would have crushed many a musician, but Fleisher found ways to rise above his disability. He became an expert in the piano repertoire composed solely to be played by the left hand, so his concert appearances continued. He became a noted conductor. He taught young prodigies, and many of them now hold positions of honor on concert stages and on musical faculties.

He thought he was making progress by subjecting himself to a deep massage process called Rolfing, but progress wasn’t sufficient to allow him to play again with both hands. Then he found out he had a condition called focal hand distonia, a condition that is said to occur in 10,000 musicians worldwide but is often suffered by people who do repetitious tasks with their hands.

The answer came in botulinum toxin, commonly known as Botox. An injection between the affected muscle and nerve allowed the hand to relax. In 2004 Vanguard Records released Fleisher’s newest album. It was called, triumphantly, “Two Hands.”

Of course there will be a lot more music offered. On June 9 Grammy Award winner Jimmy Webb, composer of the Oklahoma Centennial Anthem “Oklahoma Rising,” will have a night of his music.

The next day will feature pianist Jiyoung Chung, winner of the 2006 OK Mozart competition.

On June 11 Philadanco, Philadelphia’s Dance Company, will take the stage.

Fleisher will join the McDermott Trio for an evening of chamber music June 12.

June 13 the Amici New York, the resident orchestra of OK Mozart, will perform Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella Suite.”

On June 14 Mason Williams and friends will get together for a program including “Classical Gas.”

The next night Woolaroc Ranch and Wildlife preserve will be the setting for an evening of selections from “Oklahoma!” and other favorites, topped off with a fireworks display.

The last night, as noted above, will be Fleisher’s triumphant return.

Tickets to events range from $7 to $50; student tickets range from $5 to $25.

For more information go to or call (918) 336-9800.

Updated 06-07-2007

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