Piano Concerto for left hand

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) composed both his piano concertos in the period 1930-31. He originally intended to perform the G major concerto himself (although he eventually had to lay this idea aside because the work went beyond his own technical abilities). The concerto for left hand was the result of a commission from the Austrian born pianist, Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost an arm in the First World War. Wittgenstein, brother of the famous philosopher Ludwig, also coerced Britten and Prokovief into writing works for him (most of which he then refused to play!). As a result, the D major concerto has a very different character from the G major. The latter owes much to the French Divertissement tradition. The D major concerto is, by contrast, a far more abrasive, perhaps “problematic” composition. On a formal level, we hear not three movements but one. Far from being three distinct movements in disguise (as is usually the case with similar late 19th century single movement compositions), we find an asymmetric duality between a slower and faster movement. In looking for antecedents, the name of Liszt is a good starting point. His B minor piano sonata is rightfully regarded as the prototypical one movement work, but in handling fast and slow sections, it is worth considering the ever popular rhapsodies as possible sources of inspiration. The 'problematic' nature of the left hand concerto comes not just in terms of external features, but also of its tonality. Although the work is proclaimed as being in D major, which is true of the soloist's principal theme as well as the final chord of the composition, this does not generally hold for the work as a whole. For example, the fast section which is of great structural importance is clearly in a bright and breezy E major. We shouldn't forget however, that all these worries about how to describe the work in no way invalidates it as a successful composition. We know from Ravel's reminiscences that the only problem he experienced during composition was that of trying to conjure up the illusion of two hands while employing only one. In this Ravel succeeded triumphantly, exploiting the full range of the keyboard. Anyone hearing this work blind would never suspect that only one hand is at work. Incidentally, Alfred Cortot did once plan to record the concerto using both hands. Ravel's response was to threaten legal action!

100 évesek vagyunk