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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

The Unknown Richard Strauss, Piano Concertos For the Left Hand

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In August of 2019, I wrote a post on my Blogspot Music Blog about music written specifically for the Left Hand. At that time I wrote the following:

[...] Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein [had] his right arm amputated 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.

A musician who enjoyed the company of several luminaries of the day during his youth (Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, Josef Labor, and Richard Strauss - with whom the young Paul played duets - among them), a determined Wittgenstein approached famous composers, asking them to write material for him to perform. Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith, Alexandre Tansman, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Sergei Prokofiev, Karl Weigl, Franz Schmidt, Sergei Bortkiewicz, and Richard Strauss all produced pieces for him. Maurice Ravel wrote his Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, which became more famous than any of the other compositions that Wittgenstein inspired.
Today's share showcases Richard Strauss’ fascinating, somewhat atypical concertante works for piano left hand composed for Wittgenstein . At times the slow-motion harmonic scansion and rhapsodic piano writing throughout the Paregon to the Symphonia Domestica evoke Scriabin’s misty muse. By contrast the Panathenäenzug, subtitled Symphonic Etudes in the form of a passacaglia, uses a time-honored baroque form to generate opulently scored, post-Wagnerian froth.

Happy Listening!

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Parergon zur Sinfonia Domestica, for piano, left hand & orchestra, Op. 73 (TrV 209a)

Panathenäenzug (Symphonic Etudes in the form of a Passacaglia), for piano, left hand & orchestra, Op. 74 (TrV 254)

Anna Gourari, piano
Bamberger Symphoniker
Karl Anton Rickenbacher, conducting

Koch International 3-6571-2

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