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[Opinion] Pianist Lee Hee-ah

Posted November. 11, 2005 07:51,   


Leon Fleisher, one of the leading pianists at one time, was in his thirties when he had symptoms of paralysis on his right hand in 1964. However, he did not fall into despair. He kept playing with his left hand and expanded the realm of his career by being a music teacher and scholar of musical literature. Composers wrote piano works for Fleisher that can be played solely with left hand and Fleisher fought his disability with continuous therapy. In 1982, he miraculously made a great comeback as an ambidextrous pianist.

Pianist Lee Hee-ah`s story is another human drama which is different from Fleisher’s. Lee was born with only two fingers on each hand and with no leg below her thighs. If she were not disabled, she would have never dreamed of becoming a pianist, but she is going to hold a joint concert with pop pianist Richard Clayderman next month.

She began playing piano when she was six and it took her six months to just make a clavier sound. With abnormalities in her brain, she has headaches when she memorizes the scores for more than five minutes. But she finally has made her dream come true. Lee heard Clayderman`s performance when she was eleven and she has had him as her mentor in her mind ever since.

Stories of people who have overcome their disabilities teach non-disabled people humility. From that perspective, they give back more than they receive. When Clayderman heard Lee`s story, it is said that he remarked, "Now I know why I have to play the piano." He realized his calling through the words of the disabled woman, "You play with your head and heart, not with your fingers."

These days, Lee is busy with frequent concert requests. People want to listen to her performance not just because her performance is outstanding, but also because they want to be moved by her more than the music by itself.

A reporter from Donga-Ilbo who had interviewed her several months ago reported that Lee said, "I would like to play the piano in a shiny dress like the one that Patty Kim wears." She sounds like a person of many desires. I would like to see Lee in a dazzling dress on stage with Clayderman.

Song Moon-hong, Editorial Writer, songmh@donga.com