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Leon Fleisher was a virtuoso artist - and excellent Bolton Hill tenant, too | READER COMMENTARY

Pianist Leon Fleisher at his home in Bolton Hill, June 3, 2007. Fleisher, a leading American pianist in the 1950s and early '60s who was forced by an injury to his right hand to channel his career into conducting, teaching and mastering the left-hand repertoire, died on Sunday in a hospice in Baltimore. He was 92.
Pianist Leon Fleisher at his home in Bolton Hill, June 3, 2007. Fleisher, a leading American pianist in the 1950s and early '60s who was forced by an injury to his right hand to channel his career into conducting, teaching and mastering the left-hand repertoire, died on Sunday in a hospice in Baltimore. He was 92. (Stephanie Kuykendal/The New York Times)

Reading the obituary of Leon Fleisher, I couldn’t help smiling at several mentions of Leon’s home in the 1700 block of Park Avenue in Bolton Hill. An old friend, former state Sen. Julian “Jack” Lapides, remembers it as a “lovely house” and “a showplace,” among several other references to the house in the obituary. I bought that stately townhouse from real estate agent Mary Minnegerode — herself a true fixture in Bolton Hill — shortly after my husband Larry and I bought and moved to 240 West Lanvale Street in 1959.

As a born New Yorker, I could hardly believe the “bargain basement” prices at which I observed the neighborhood houses to be selling, and so I started buying a few as an investment, renovating the apartments and renting them to people associated mainly with the nearby Maryland Institute College of Art. Among the investments in my portfolio was the handsome house on Park Avenue. Unfortunately, I rented that house to a tenant who then acquired a dog. When he left, I found that his untrained dog had damaged part of the beautiful antique baseboard molding which I then meticulously replaced.

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One day. while I was in New York minding my flourishing but demanding business, Caedmon Records, my husband Larry received a call from a real estate agent just as he was dexterously opening a package from the Musical Heritage Society to which he subscribed for their steady releases of classical music recordings. “Larry,” said Bob, our agent, “I think I’ve got a renter for Barbara’s Park Avenue house, by the name of Leon Fleisher.”

At exactly that moment, my husband drew the record album out of the package. “Leon Fleisher,” read the album cover, with a photo of the young artist. “The pianist?” exclaimed Larry, nearly dropping the phone.

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My husband never tired of repeating that incredible story of coincidence. Leon loved the house immediately, rented it from me and lived there with his wife while he built his career in Baltimore and the world. Unquestionably, he and the beautiful town house belonged together, so much so that eventually Leon bought it from me. And now it pleases me so much, years later, to know that the imprint of his hands is actually enshrined in the basement of the house that he loved, and that he filled, while he lived there, with music (”Leon Fleisher and the power of preparation,” Aug. 5).

Barbara Holdridge, Baltimore

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