Pianist, 72, returns to stage after 19-year absence

Pianist, 72, returns to stage after 19-year absence


norman lebrecht

February 21, 2018

Misha Dichter is back at Carnegie Hall.

Once upon a time that would have been a routine concert announcement.

But Dichter, 72, hasn’t mounted a New York stage since 1999 when he was diagnosed with Dupuytren’s contracture, a condition that causes deformation in the hands.

He has undergone two rounds of surgery and much rehab.

But Dichter kept saying that to abandon playing the piano ‘would destroy me as a person.’

Read full story here.



  • Donald Wright says:

    (Alas, one must subscribe to the Wall Street Journal to read the article posted above.)

    Dichter may not have appeared in New York for some decades, but I saw him play a recital 8 years ago this month at Stanford, after which a hand specialist spoke briefly, describing his condition and its treatment. (I attended, FWIW, with a critic friend, whose review, more eloquent than I could manage, is here: http://classicalmusicguide.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=34008 .)

  • John Dalkas says:

    Famed Pianist Returns to the New York Stage After Hand Surgeries
    Charles Passy
    4-5 minutes
    Feb. 20, 2018 5:27 p.m. ET

    When Misha Dichter appears at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall on Wednesday, it will mark the New York-based pianist’s first major solo program in the city since 1999.

    His absence hardly has been by design.

    The 72-year-old Mr. Dichter, who rose to fame after winning the silver medal in the 1966 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, has been sidelined at various points with Dupuytren’s contracture, a hand deformity.

    The condition, which as its name implies causes the fingers to contract, forced the pianist to undergo surgeries on both hands, the last one as recently as September 2016.

    Weeks of physical therapy followed each operation, with the normally tireless pianist having to limit his playing to five minutes at a time at the onset, to give himself time to heal.

    And that is to say nothing of the inherent risk Mr. Dichter faced in going under the knife. The success of either surgery was never guaranteed.

    Mr. Dichter says he felt he had no choice but to proceed.

    To stop playing the piano “would destroy me as a person,” he said, speaking from the studio of his Upper West Side home in Manhattan as he prepared for Wednesday’s recital.

    It was a point echoed by Scott Wolfe, the New York orthopedic surgeon who operated on Mr. Dichter both times. “He was not going to give up until his hands were back on the piano keys,” said Dr. Wolfe, who is an attending surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

    Dupuytren’s contracture is a hereditary condition—the pianist’s father, a non-musician, suffered from it—though it doesn’t necessarily present itself with each family member down the line.

    When Mr. Dichter first suspected a problem around 2006, it was his right hand that was affected. His decision was to put off any medical treatment as long as possible. But one day, while playing a passage in a Brahms solo work, he realized his fingers were no longer up to the task. In February 2007, he underwent his first surgery.

    The pianist thought he might be in the clear at that point. But some years later, problems arose with his left hand.

    “I’m not self-pitying,” he said of his reaction to dealing with the situation the second time around. “I couldn’t wait to get [the surgery] over with.”

    Mr. Dichter has kept busy with recitals and orchestral engagements throughout the U.S. and beyond. He also appears annually at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado.

    Mr. Dichter has faced other challenges beyond the physical. In recent years, the classical-music industry has undergone a massive shake-up as audiences decline and venues nationwide pay more heed to popular entertainment than to Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

    That has made it harder to find bookings, Mr. Dichter says. But he is grateful the opportunity arose to finally perform again at Carnegie, where he used to appear every couple of years.

    His program, which is being presented by the Key Pianists series, serves as something of an overview of his life and career.

    Mr. Dichter was born in China to Jewish parents who sought refuge from Nazi Europe. He grew up in Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was two, and then came to New York City in 1964 to study at the Juilliard School.

    Mr. Dichter will be joined at Carnegie by his wife of 50 years, Cipa Dichter, an acclaimed pianist in her own right, for duets by Schubert and Copland.

    On his own, Mr. Dichter will tackle, among other works, Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A. It is a piece he played when he competed in Moscow more than a half-century ago and that has remained a key part of his repertoire ever since.

    Given all the challenges he has faced, Mr. Dichter said, the work “means much more to me now.”

  • harold braun says:

    Wish him well..Why did so many great American pianists suffer from bad luck?Kapell,Cliburn,Graffman,Janis,Fleisher,Dichter…..???

    • Fred says:

      I don’t know, but maybe it’s that the Americans have more of a chance to undergo rehabilitation and get back to playing and thus back into the press. By contrast, pianists from other countries may have simply sunk into oblivion–becoming completely forgotten–when they suffered similar maladies.

      • steven holloway says:

        Well, I don’t think so. William Kapell died in a plane crash. Cliburn retired for reasons not known, but it may be, given his era, that he feared continued publicity would bring attention to his homosexuality, bearing in mind that he was a very gentlemanly, rather conservative Texan. Fleischer’s and Graffman’s difficulties it has long been suspected were owing to the technique taught to the American school of pianists at that time — very hard on the hands. Janis and Dichter both suffer from diseases — psoriatic arthritis in Janis’ case; their afflictions may be seen as a matter of luck, perhaps, and capable of treatment, as Fleischer’s has been, but Kapell and Cliburn it cannot be said were susceptible to rehabilitation.

        • Croak says:

          Fleisher and Graffman both have focal dystonia, nothing suspicious there.

          • steven holloway says:

            Nothing suspicious in any of this. It might be noted that focal dystonia may be induced by excessive motor movement. Fleischer and Graffman are far from the only musicians to have been afflicted with dystonia.

    • la verita says:

      Cliburn retired simply because his real-estate investments made him filthy-rich. He was weary of all the pressure, and no longer needed to work. He certainly never had any bad luck, and he never cared about what anyone might think about him.

  • c bell says:

    Sad outcomes also for British pianists

    Sad out comes also for British pianists Judd,Matthews,Mewton Wood, Ogden, Smith and Solomon.

  • Zalman says:

    It is sad when people undergo surgery, when a radiologist, using guided-needle therapy with ultrasound guidance can achieve the necessary results without surgery and permanent physical alteration. I had surgery for trigger finger, and it worked, but caused some permanent discomfort, and when it began, my doctor, Levon Nazarian, who invented this procedure, was able to treat it by softening the tendon stirrup with the needle, so the tendon could glide freely once more. It has lasted. It is permanently effective. He is also able, with the ultrasound imagery, to treat bursitis or tennis elbow with injections that go exactly where needed, instead of using guesswork. This contracture sounds like a similar situation in which the soft-tissue could be softened with needling rather than severed.