Ravel – Concerto pour la main gauche


After promising pianist Paul Wittgenstein, the older brother of Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Austrian philosopher) lost his arm in the Battle of Lemberg in 1914, part of the First World War, he persisted in playing the piano, but with just his left hand. There were some works already existing, but he commissioned many more. One among those is this, by Ravel. It premiered in 1932, played by Wittgenstein himself.

Ravel must have been an agitated fellow in the Thirties. It seems he was arguing about every little thing. It was more common in those years for soloists to change pieces according to their own taste. If that happens nowadays, it is specifically mentioned, and nobody takes offence. But if you just do it and you then claim it is still the same work… It happened to Ravel a number of times, and one of those is with this jazzy work. Paul Wittgenstein added all kinds of stuff, took harmonies from the orchestral parts and made a mess of things. Ravel got in a terrible row with him. The two reconciled and Wittgenstein agreed to play the piece as written, but the episode left a bitter taste in their mouths.

Daniël Wayenberg was one of the greatest Dutch pianists ever. He was born in Paris in 1929, but the family moved to The Hague a few weeks later. Instead of going to school, his mother gave him piano lessons. His fame came after the war when he won an international competition in 1949.

He was able to perform until 2018, but then his health left him. He died of cancer the next year at a respectable age 89.

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