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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major – Alexandre Tharaud, BBC Philharmonic, Juanjo Mena

The famous French pianist Alexandre Tharaud performs Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major. Spanish Juanjo Mena conducts the BBC Philharmonic. Recorded at the BBC Proms in London on September 10, 2011.

Between 1929 and 1931, Ravel, despite his failing health, worked feverishly, his imagination as powerful as ever. Among the works completed during this period are the two piano concertos: this extraordinary work and the scintillating Piano Concerto in G major. This concerto was commissioned by the prominent Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, brother of the celebrated philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm due to a wound sustained in World War I. It is indeed a tragic irony that Ravel, who also served his country in World War I, and Wittgenstein were enemies in this terrible conflict. Nevertheless, Ravel, fascinated by the technical challenge of composing a concerto for the left hand, approached the project with immense interest and enthusiasm. In addition, Ravel admired Wittgenstein's determination to continue his career as a concert pianist.

Piano works for the left hand were certainly not a novelty, as compositions by Scriabin, Alkan, and Liapunov attest, but Ravel wanted to create a unique work which would not merely demonstrate how a pianist can compensate for a physical handicap. He wished to compose a work which would stand out as a unique piano concerto. The outcome of Ravel's efforts is one of the great piano concertos of the twentieth century. However, the Concerto, completed in October or November of 1931, failed to please Wittgenstein, who only gradually developed an appreciation for Ravel's work. Furthermore, when the Austrian pianist premiered the work in Vienna, in 1932, he took certain liberties with the score, to the composer's extreme consternation. Despite Ravel's frustration, he conducted the orchestra in Wittgenstein's Paris premiere of the Concerto in 1933. Because Wittgenstein had sole rights on the work for six years, Ravel had to wait until 1937 to hear a performance (by Jacques Février), which satisfied him.

The work, which is really in one movement, begins deep in the bass register, with the contrabassoon, along with the basses, presenting a subdued theme, which elicits a mournful response from the horns. The initial mournful mood is gradually, almost imperceptibly, transformed into an insistent, somewhat manic, musical idea. The piano enters with a simple statement, creating pentatonic resonances, which disappear, but remain in the background. As the initial somber atmosphere lifts, the piano gradually establishes a mood of exquisite lyricism, which pervades the middle section. Ravel's writing is so subtle and technically ingenious that the listener hears a gentle melody with a hypnotically diaphanous, but seemingly elaborate, accompaniment; it is easy to forget that one hand does all the playing. The energy behind the third section, in which the piano engages the orchestra, often mimicking particular instrumental sonorities, profoundly differs from the wave-like, fluid, ascending motion of the Concerto in G major; here, the energy is discontinuous, manifesting itself in obstinate, repetitive figurations and phrases which, if only for brief moments, conjure up the spirit of Boléro. At the same time, Ravel devotes truly marvelous pages to the piano, particularly in the cadenza-like part of the final section, in which the left hand leads an engaging and richly developed melody into a glowing orchestral finale.

Source: Zoran Minderovic (

Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961)

Ο Αυστριακός πιανίστας Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961) υπήρξε γόνος μιας πολύ πλούσιας οικογένειας με πάθος για τη μουσική. Με το ξέσπασμα του Α' Παγκοσμίου πολέμου ο Βιτγκενστάιν κατατάχθηκε στον αυστριακό στρατό και λίγους μήνες αργότερα τραυματίστηκε από σφαίρα στον αγκώνα, με αποτέλεσμα το δεξί του χέρι να ακρωτηριαστεί.

Αποφασισμένος όμως να μην εγκαταλείψει την πιανιστική του καριέρα, εκμεταλλεύτηκε την περιουσία του και ζήτησε από σημαίνοντες συνθέτες της εποχής να γράψουν για εκείνον έργα για αριστερό χέρι. Έτσι, προέκυψαν μεταξύ άλλων έργα για αριστερό χέρι και ορχήστρα των Richard Strauss, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith κ.ά. Ο Βιτγκενστάιν απηύθυνε ανάλογο αίτημα και στον Μωρίς Ραβέλ, ο οποίος εκείνη την εποχή δούλευε πάνω στο κοντσέρτο για πιάνο σε Σολ μείζονα.

Ο ίδιος ο συνθέτης αναγνώρισε τις έντονες επιρροές του, εν προκειμένω από την τζαζ, όπως επίσης και τη συνειδητή του προσπάθεια να δώσει την αίσθηση ότι ο πιανίστας παίζει και με τα δύο χέρια, γεγονός που καθιστά την πιανιστική γραφή εξαιρετικά πυκνή και δεξιοτεχνική. Το έργο είναι αναμφίβολα ένα από τα πιο δραματικά του Ραβέλ, ενώ η σκοτεινή του ατμόσφαιρα έχει εκληφθεί από ορισμένους αναλυτές ως ένα έμμεσο σχόλιο του συνθέτη για την τραγικότητα του Α' Παγκοσμίου πολέμου.

Πηγή : Πρόγραμμα του Φεστιβάλ Σύγχρονης Μουσικής "Update" 2014

Το Κοντσέρτο για πιάνο (αριστερό χέρι) και ορχήστρα σε Ρε μείζονα, του Μωρίς Ραβέλ, ερμηνεύει ο διακεκριμένος Γάλλος πιανίστας Αλεξάντρ Ταρό. Τη Φιλαρμονική του BBC διευθύνει ο Ισπανός αρχιμουσικός Juanjo Mena. Η συναυλία δόθηκε στο πλαίσιο των BBC Proms στο Λονδίνο, στις 30 Ιουλίου 2014.

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

♪ Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major (1929-1930)

Lento – Più lento – Allegro

Alexandre Tharaud, piano

BBC Philharmonic

Conductor: Juanjo Mena

London, Royal Albert Hall, Proms 2014, July 30

(HD 720p)

First publication: March 12, 2015 – Last update: January 30, 2018

See also

Alexandre Tharaud – All the posts


Maurice Ravel: Piano Concertos – Yuja Wang, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Lionel Bringuier (Audio video)

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