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Paul Wittgenstein, the older brother of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, was an accomplished pianist before WWI interrupted his concert career. During the war, Wittgenstein was shot in the elbow and his arm had to be amputated. Despite this significant injury, and against all the nay-sayers, he determined to continue to perform as a pianist. He worked extensively to strengthen his left hand and develop techniques that would allow him to play more complex music. Following the war, he began approaching composers to write works for only the left hand; and many significant European composers did! Korngold, Hindemith, Stravinsky, and Richard Strauss all wrote pieces that Wittgenstein commissioned.

Although they had converted to Christianity generations before, the Wittgenstein family was classed as Jewish by the Nazi regime, making it more and more difficult for Paul to perform. In 1938, at the onset of WWII, he departed for the U.S., continuing his performance and teaching schedule until his death in 1961. His life (and the Ravel Concerto that he commissioned) is the inspiration for a 1980 M*A*S*H episode about a pianist who suffers nerve damage after being injured in a battle and his struggle to continue to use his musical gifts.

Is your week starting off one-armed? Do the limitations or hurdles appear overwhelming? What you have is more than enough. It is still possible to make beautiful music with only one hand.

Felix Blumenfeld, Etude for the Left Hand

James Rhodes

Alexander Scriabin, Prelude and Nocturne, Opus 9

Grigory Sokolov

Maurice Ravel, Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra