Maurice Ravel and Paul Wittgenstein: Le Concerto pour la Main Gauche in Response to World War I
Metadata[+] Show full item record
Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein (1887–1961) lost his right arm during World War I. Wittgenstein recovered from the surgery, then in 1915 returned to Vienna to commission one of the most celebrated left-hand piano pieces from Maurice Ravel (1875–1937): the 1930 Concerto pour la Main Gauche. Ravel’s war experience was not as dramatic as Wittgenstein’s, but it still affected him personally, professionally and artistically; his involvement definitely shaped his future compositions and most certainly the Concerto for the Left Hand. This thesis explores Wittgenstein and Ravel’s war experiences through the scope of the Concerto pour la Main Gauche. Fighting on opposite sides, these artists are united post-war around this composition, which stands as a sign of peace and reconciliation. Several inquiries emerge: What makes this composition a war concerto? Is the piece a hymn to resilience, courage and artistic triumph? Does Wittgenstein’s recording of it portray a war experience or more specifically his war experience? How can elements of fragmentation, jazz and blues, industrial noise and sonic war material, cataclysmic virtuosity and lyric beauty be linked to World War I? Finally, this research will survey how these musicians’ lives were marked by war, one subject to terrible phantom pains for the rest of his life, and the other plagued with insomnia until his death in 1937.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- The Great War -- Le Concerto pour la Main Gauche -- The concerto and the war -- Appendix A. Le Noël des Enfants qui n’ont plus de Maison (1915) -- Appendix B. Manifesto of the National League for the Defense of French Music -- Appendix C. Letter from Ravel to the Committee of the National League for the Defense of French Music -- Appendix D. Ravel: Trois beaux oiseaux du Paradis -- Appendix E. 1916 iconography of Maurice Ravel as a soldier during World War I -- Appendix F. Count Géza Zichy (1849–1924) -- Appendix G. Adolfo Fumagalli (1828–1956) -- Appendix H. Excerpt of Alfred Cortot’s Transcription of Ravel Concerto pour la Main Gauche -- Appendix I. Ravel’s analysis of his Concerto pour la Main Gauche in 1933