Music Online Classical Music Library: Piano Music by Ravel

Music Online from Alexander Street Press is a streaming audio and video service available with your Multnomah County Library card. This massive collection features a wide variety musical types in recordings and video, all accessible through the Multnomah County Library catalog.

Additionally, you can sign up for a free download of music with your email address, an interesting random method for exploring music that you might not know. Sign up for classical music notices, world/folk music, or both; every two weeks there is something new, with notes about the recordings.

This week's free download from Classical Music Library is the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand by Maurice Ravel:
"When the talented Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm in the First World War, he devoted himself to playing with his left hand only. As a result, he commissioned a number of works from composers as varied as Korngold, Richard Strauss, Prokofiev, and Britten. In the late 1920s, he approached French composer Maurice Ravel. Written between 1929 and 1930, Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand is the best known of Wittgenstein's commissions. Ravel travelled to the United States in 1928, where he led a very successful concert tour. The influence of American music and jazz, especially the music of George Gershwin, whom Ravel visited with in New York, is much in evidence in the harmonies and syncopated rhythms. Wittgenstein himself premiered the work in 1932."  This recording is performed by the Orchestre Philharmonique des Pays de Loire, featuring pianist Abdel Rahman El Bacha." - from the description on Music Online.

At Central Library, you can find books that describe repertoire for specific instruments, useful for musicians who are looking for new works to play. The book Piano Music for One Hand is one of numerous books for just this type of piano music. Here is an excerpt from author Theodore Edel's description of this piece:
"One of Ravel's masterpieces and the absolue summit of the left-hand repertoire. It was written concurrently with the G major Concerto and nothing could be farther removed from its sparking Mozartean sound world than this dark and fateful music. Together the Concerti constitute the two poles of Ravel's persona; and they are his last compositions for the piano. This work is in one large ternary-form movement. The opening seems to rise out of the very depths of the orchestra, with the piano solo continuing the fateful mood. The extended middle section, in a driving 6/8, ranges from playfulness to savagery and incorporates a distinct jazz element."

- from Piano Music for One Hand, by Theodore Edel.
Central Library Art & Music Room Reference R- 786.2 E21p

Listening to this piece, I found it almost shocking how swiftly it moved from one affect to another, seemingly at the limits of joy and despair in a short work.

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