Hindemith's Recently Rediscovered Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, Op. 29 Premieres in Canada
Apr. 01, 2006
Written in 1923, Paul Hindemith's (18951963) Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, Op. 29 received its much belated first performance on December 9, 2004 in Berlin. Now on its journey through the musical world, the concerto makes its Canadian Premiere on April 1 with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hugh Wolff, with soloist Leon Fleisher.
Rarely does a work by such a major figure as Hindemith undergo such a long incubation period as the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand. Interestingly enough, the exceptional delay can be accounted for in part by the peculiarity of the piece itself, as a work from the very small repertory of piano works composed solely for the left hand. The most prominent and seminal works for left hand piano, including Hindemith's Op. 29, all stemmed from the commissions of a wealthy Austrian, Paul Wittgenstein (18871961), brother of the famed philosopher Ludwig. Wittgenstein had studied piano in his youth, with dreams of virtuosity. Unfortunately for Wittgenstein, his participation in the Austrian army during World War I left him without a right arm and, thus, limited his opportunities in piano performance. However, Wittgenstein put his monetary faculties to good use, commissioning multiple large scale works for left-handed piano and, in doing so, establishing an entirely new compositional idiom.
Among the other composers commissioned by Wittgenstein for similar works were Korngold, Strauss, Britten, Prokofiev, and Ravel, Ravel's Piano Concerto in D major claiming the most renown over time. Unfortunately for Hindemith, his Piano Concerto for the Left Hand apparently fell onto the wrong ears, a contingency he had anticipated in a letter to Wittgenstein dated May 9, 1923: "I would be sorry if the piece didn't bring you joy - you might find it a bit strange to listen to at first - I wrote it with a great deal of love and like it very much." Wittgenstein never performed the piece, and, as he exerted sole control over its destiny, neither did anyone else. Only when Wittgenstein's papers became accessible in 2002 was a copy of the original found, albeit with a number of errors. The autograph score and parts had been lost, but with the aid of extant sketches at the Hindemith Institute, the piece has been resurrected.
To learn more about Hindemith and his works, please visit www.schott-music.com. For more information about the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s performance of the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, please visit www.tso.ca.