Southpaws

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pianist Marc-André Hamelin in the WQXR studio. Pianist Marc-André Hamelin in the WQXR studio. (Kim Nowacki/WQXR)

Pianists use every limb for their instrument, with both hands at the keyboard and both feet on the pedals. Most of the time. There is a surprisingly large number of piano works that call only for the left hand and many of these "left-hand alone" works are featured on this episode of Reflections from the Keyboard.

Perhaps the most famous work for the left-hand is Maurice Ravel’s piano concerto, which was commissioned by the pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm during World War I. Leon Fleisher became a champion of left-hand-only works, including the Ravel concerto, after he lost the use of his right hand to a condition diagnosed as focal dystonia. Fleisher plays a portion of the Ravel on this program, as well as a lesser-known work by Camille Saint-Saens.

Ever the fan of comparative performance, David Dubal’s exploration of the southpaw literature includes a comparison between Leopold Godowsky’s etudes for the left hand and the original two-hand Chopin etudes that inspired them.

Program details:

Alexander Scriabin: Prelude in C Sharp Minor Op. 9 No. 1
— Leon Fleisher, piano.

Camille Saint Saens: Etude no. 2 Op. 135 alla Fuga
— Leon Fleisher, piano.

Camille Saint Saens: Etude no. 2 Op. 135 alla Fuga
— J.C. Martins, piano.

Felix Blumenfeld: Etude in A flat Op. 36
— Simon Barere, piano.

Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto for LH- Allegro
— Baltimore Symphony; Sergiu Comissiona, conductor; Leon Fleisher, piano

Alexander Scriabin: Nocturn for LH Alone - Op. 9 No. 2
— Alexis Weissenberg, piano.

Frederik Chopin: Etude Op. 10 No. 1
— Georges Cziffra, piano.

Frederik Chopin/Leopold Godowsky: Etude Op. 10 No. 1
— Marc-André Hamelin, piano.

Frederik Chopin: Etude Op. 10 No. 12
— Georges Cziffra, piano.

Frederik Chopin/Leopold Godowsky: Etude Op. 10 No. 12
— Marc-André Hamelin, piano.

Leopold Godowsky: Badinage Op. 10 No. 5
— Marc-André Hamelin, piano.

Camille Saint Saens: Etude Op. 135 No. 6
— Leon Fleisher, piano.

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Comments [2]

Silversalty from Brooklyn

Re: Camille Saint-Saens' 'alla Fuga', the Fleisher piece has much more bass (a recording/piano quality) and resonance (pedal use?/recording setting?). The João Carlos Martins interpretation is far 'flatter,' with little resonance - Gouldesque though Gould could sometimes turn the most robotic interpretation into something lyrical in essence. In the faster portions Martins does get some of that crisp ringing without resonance. [Of course I'm comparing a real person's real interpretation to an imaginary one, so not fair.]

Another omitted credit - the program finished with a second comparative presentation. Before the final listed Saint-Saens/Fleisher piece the same piece rendered by João Carlos Martins was played.

........................................
Camille Saint Saens: Etude Op. 135 No. 6
— João Carlos Martins, piano.
........................................

Jul. 20 2013 09:52 AM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

A couple of quick comments. Haven't yet listened to the whole program.

After the incredible Felix Blumenfeld Etude played by Simon Barere there's an uncredited piece.

........................................
Robert Helps: Etude for Left Hand
-- Naomi Niskala, piano.
........................................

Why mono for this program? Not because of the one hand I hope.

Jul. 19 2013 11:47 PM

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