Piano Concerto No. 4 for the left hand in B flat major, Op. 53

Composed in 1931, the Piano Concerto No. 4 for the left hand was commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein who had lost his right arm in World War I and for whom Ravel composed his famous piano concerto. Wittgenstein never understood the music and never performed it in public (the world premi?re only took place three years after the death of the composer, in 1956). Prokofiev, an excellent pianist himself, saw an exciting challenge in composing for a one hand. The work is extremely lively and, exploiting the entire range of the instrument, the piano solo spans vastsonorous spaces with big leaps. Clearly, Prokofiev sought to create the illusion of full piano sonority with one hand. The focal point of the four-movement work is the two middle movements. The motoric, brilliantly witty first movement is more like a finale in character. The second is Prokofiev’s most beautiful slow movement, a magical splash of colours blended from the strings and woodwinds. The third movement brings together a variety of characters, ranging from the opening, almost grotesque piano fanfare to subsequent lyrical moments. The very short finale returns to the music of the opening movement and ends with a remarkable idea when the high-flying, soft scale passage ‘runs away’ from the audience.