Paul Wittgenstein | Inspiration Through Music | Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra
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Paul Wittgenstein | Inspiration Through Music

Paul Wittgenstein Piano

What to know:

  • Paul served as the inspiration for Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, and he commissioned many other left-handed piano concerti from composers like Richard Strauss, Paul Hindemith, and Sergei Prokofiev
  • He made his piano debut at the age of 26
  • After suffering an injury in World War I, Paul's right arm needed to be amputated

Inside Scoop:

  • Concerto (/kənˈCHerˌtō); a musical composition for a solo instrument or instruments accompanied by an orchestra

Paul Wittgenstein was an Austrian pianist born on May 5, 1887, in Vienna. He came from a wealthy and intellectual family. While growing up, Paul's home was often visited by cultural icons like Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Strauss, setting him down a path of musical inspiration. Paul began his musical studies early in life, making his piano debut in his early twenties.

His promising career as a concert pianist was abruptly interrupted by World War I, during which he lost his right arm in combat. Undeterred by this setback, he embarked on a remarkable journey to relearn how to play the piano using only his left hand. This determination led him to commission numerous works for left-handed piano from composers such as Maurice Ravel, Benjamin Britten, and Sergei Prokofiev.

Through his dedication and talent, Paul Wittgenstein became a pioneering figure in the music world, inspiring other musicians with disabilities to pursue their passion for music. His legacy lives on through his recordings and the repertoire of left-handed piano music that he championed, ensuring that his contributions to the music world continue to be celebrated for generations to come.

Hear It Live:

Catch pianist and Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold Medalist Yekwon Sunwoo performing Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, one of the works written for Paul, on Saturday, March 23, with the Kalamazoo Symphony.

Journeys: Shostakovich, Ravel, Marsalis

Tags: Concerts, masterworks