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RAVEL CONCERTO for the LEFT HAND
in D major



The Ravel concerto for the Left Hand is nothing less than a masterpiece. It is great music, a great piano concerto in terms of the interaction of piano and orchestra, and an extraordinary use of the left hand and its domain on the piano a vivid representation in sound of the drama surrounding it's creation, martial, tragic, wistful, hopeful and triumphant.

It is fitting that we begin with a performance by Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961) , the Austrian pianist who lost his right arm in World War I and for whom it was written. He is accompanied in this 1937 recording by Bruno Walter conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam.




Wittgenstein playing the Cadenza
filmed in Paris in 1933




Almost every one of the following performances of the Ravel Concerto for the Left Hand is first class.  Some are more coloristic, more French, more Ravel perhaps, like the Cortot.  Others, like the Wittgenstein/Walter, explore the  darker, more dramatic, almost cinematic side of the work which I believe was the intent of the composer.  And there are those which explore the more pianistic and orchestral elements.  They are all wonderful, but if pressed I would single out the Monique Hass/Paul Paray pairing as an exquisite example of the French post war style. And perhaps my favorite is the recording by Virsaladze, a spectacular Georgian pianist and among the great women pianists of our time.

As I said, there are many fine performances here, but upon re-hearing, I must extoll the virtues of the performance by Ciccolini and Martinon as being the one I like the best, both from a pianistic and an orchestral standpoint. And here pianist and conductor and orchestra are of one mind in producing an uninterpreted Ravelian chef d'oeuvre. Interestingly, certain similarities to the music of Respighi, an exact contemporary of Ravel really make themselves known to me in this recording.

I include as well brief excerpts from performances of the Ravel Concerto for the Left Hand by Leon Fleisher, Ivan Ilić and Ishay Shaer as they provide excellent views of the left hand techniques while playing the cadenza of the. I also include a recording by Yakov Flier which I find very much to my liking.

There are so many performances that I had to continue them on a second page: Ravel Concerto for the Left Hand II



ALFRED CORTOT
French-Swiss pianist (1877-1962)

Charles Munch conducting l'Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire de Paris 

recorded in 1939




ROBERT CASADESUS
French pianist (1899-1972)


Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra
recorded in 1947




Sergiu Celibidache conducting the Vienna Symphony Orchestra
recorded live in 1952




VLADO PERLEMUTER
Lithuanian-born French pianist (1904-2002)

Jascha Horenstein conducting l'Orchestre des Concerts Colonne

recorded in 1955 




JEAN DOYEN
French pianist
 (1907-1982)

Jean Fournet conducting l'Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux

recorded in 1954 


beginning



conclusion





MONIQUE HAAS
French pianist (1909-1987)

Paul Paray conducting the Orchestre National de la RTF, Paris

Recorded in 1965 




JACQUELINE BLANCARD
Swiss pianist (1909-1994)

Ernest Ansermet conducting l'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande




YAKOV FLIER
Russian pianist (1912-1977)

Yevgeni Svetlanov conducting the State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR

excerpt recorded in 1965




EMIL GILELS
Soviet pianist  (1916-1985)

Kurt Sanderling conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra
recorded live in 1952


beginning



conclusion




GEZA ANDA
Hungarian pianist (1921-1976)

Hans Rosbaud conducting the Southwest German radio Symphony Orchestra

recorded in 1952




ALICIA de LARROCHA
Spanish Catalan pianist (1923-2009)

unidentified orchestra conducted by Lawrence Foster




unidentified orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin




SAMSON FRANÇOIS
French pianist (1924-1970)

André Cluytens conducting l'Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire

recorded in 1959




ALDO CICCOLINI
Italian-French pianist (1925-2015)

Jean Martinon conducting l'Orchestre de Paris




JULIUS KATCHEN
American pianist (1926-1969)


Istvan Kertesz conducting the London Symphony Orchestra 




and part of a rehearsal for his final concert in 1968




LEON FLEISHER
American pianist (b 1928)


Sergiu Comissiona conducting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
recorded in 1982 


beginning



conclusion




Sergiu Comissiona conducting the Orquesta Sinfónica de Radiotelevisión Española
recorded live in 1995




Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra




cadenza




DANIËL WAYENBERG
Dutch pianist (b 1929)


Ernest Bour conducting l'Orchestre du Théatre des Champs-Elysées
recorded live in 1957



Bernard Haitink conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
1967 live radio broadcast




DIMITRI BASHKIROV
Georgian pianist (b 1931)

Victor Dubrovsky conducting the Symphonic Orchestra of the Moscow State Philharmonic Society

recorded in 1965 




JOHN BROWNING
American pianist (1933-2003)

Erich Leinsdorf conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra




PHILIPPE ENTREMONT
French pianist (b 1934)

Pierre Boulez conducting the Cleveland Orchestra

recorded in the 1970s




MIKHAIL VOSKRESENSKY
Russian pianist (b 1935)

Tom Woods conducting the Sydney Youth Orchestra

2002 video




JOAQUÍN ACHÚCARRO
Basque Spanish pianist (b 1936)

Gilbert Varga conducting the Euskadi (Basque National) Symphony Orchestra




ELISO VIRSALADZE
Georgian pianist (b 1942)

Nikolai Alekseev conducting the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra

2005 video










For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background

Murder in the House of the Muse

which is also available as an audiobook.



And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:

Murder Follows the Muse



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Or go to the Ravel Concerto for the Left Hand II page



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