Ravel Concert for the Left Hand

The Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major was composed by Maurice Ravel between 1929 and 1930, concurrently with his Piano Concerto in G. It was commissioned by the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm during World War I. The Concerto had its premiere in January 1932, with Wittgenstein as soloist performing with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

Paul Wittgenstein (November 5, 1887 – March 3, 1961) was an Austrian concert pianist notable for commissioning new piano concerti for the left hand alone, following the amputation of his right arm during the First World War. He devised novel techniques, including pedal and hand-movement combinations, that allowed him to play chords previously regarded as impossible for a five-fingered pianist. He was the older brother of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

The piece was commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein, a concert pianist who had lost his right arm in the First World War. In preparing for composition, Ravel studied several pieces written for one-handed piano, including Camille Saint-Saëns‘s Six Études pour la main gauche (Six études for the left hand)(op. 135); Leopold Godowsky‘s transcription for the left hand of Frédéric Chopin‘s Etudes (op. 10 & 25); Carl Czerny‘s Ecole de la main gauche (School of the left hand) (op. 399), 24 études pour la main gauche (op. 719) and Alkan (op. 76 no. 1); and Alexander Scriabin‘s Prelude and Nocturne for the Left Hand (op.9).

Wittgenstein gave the premiere with Robert Heger and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra on 5 January 1932; Ravel had first offered the premiere to Arturo Toscanini, who declined. The first French pianist to perform the work was Jacques Février, chosen by Ravel.


Now, this is really the most hairy piece to play for any pianist, including myself. If you do not have a gigantic left hand like Ferruccio Busoni, Svjatoslav Richter or Andrei Gavrilov, you are puzzled to play this.

But I must be very wrong to have said this, for you see this young Chinese woman playing this at a level I can only call ‘a marvel.’ Her fortissimo is really strong, and she can really be called ‘equal level’ with the great piano lions of the past and the present ones.

I have put this as the first post of my portrait of Yuja for it is the most outstanding achievement of hers.

[Please let me not talk about my love letters to her, sent to her agency in London, that she never replied to for it was silly. I know our personalities could not match, but I truly admire her, which is why I have created this site about her.]

Now, let me say a note about her using the iPad Pro for reading the score. While she of course knows the concert by heart, she demonstrates here her love for the iPad, her only intimate friend as she said in an interview, for she has no boyfriend, no husband, and no partner. She also said an another interview that ‘men are assholes’ and that she ‘might just love girls.’

I find it charming to use the iPad for score reading on the piano, not just for telling ‘I Live Apple’ or ‘Think Different’ but as a genuine idea to replace the written score by an electronic device that is easier to handle for turning pagers than those worn-out papers that the late Svjatoslav Richter was using all through his later years, and that sometimes just didn’t want to do the job …

Sorry, this site is still in development …