A Memorial Day Tribute
When I play Ravel’s Left Hand Concerto, my goal is to make it sound like I have THREE hands, so says pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet.
The Back Story
Pianist Paul Wittgenstein who lost his right arm because of a bullet wound in WW I, commissioned composer Maurice Ravel to write a concerto for the left hand.
Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand was commissioned in 1929 by the pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his arm during World War I.
Wittgenstein gave the premiere of the piece in 1932 and ever since it’s been a firm audience favourite.
A 3-minute excerpt from Wittgenstein’s solo piano:
Persistence & Perseverance: endurance, grit, stamina
If I could not reach the summit by one route, I would climb down and start again from the other side! ~ Paul Wittgenstein
Have you heard of Paul Wittgenstein?
Do you know anyone else with a special handicap who has developed an awesome skill?
Other notable quotes about persistence?
Good morning, Marian! Thanks for sharing. I listened to the music without watching, and I would not have known he was playing with only one hand. Clearly, he was a talented pianist before his injury.
I hadn’t thought about it, but indeed he was an accomplished musician before being wounded. Most importantly, he had to courage to adapt to a really hard knock in life. Thanks, Merril!
Wow, thanks for sharing the clip, amazing. A young man (now in 40s) lost one leg to cancer while he was still a kid. He is from Harrisonburg and now lives on the west coast I think, and has made a living off of stand up comedy, basically about being one-legged. I interviewed him as a motivational speaker twice for articles and a radio program, well before he became a popular guy on YouTube, from a strong Christian family. He is now married and I continue to be amazed and delighted by his sense of humor. Here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7JK5AFjjvc
Thanks so much for the link. I hope others will read your comment and be inspired by Josh Sundquist’s message. The irony in “stand-up” comedian is not lost on me – WOW! And how privileged you are to have had the chance to interview him, Melodie. 🙂
Truly remarkable and inspirational. It’s like all those amazing athletes in the Paralympics, turning handicaps into triumphs. Thanks for sharing.
Fatima, you inspired me to look up more info about the Paralympics. I noticed that the Wikipedia article mentioned these special games originated with a group of British WWII veterans: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paralympic_Games
Thanks for sharing this! 🙂
Truly incredible and inspiring, Marian. I often think about people with handicaps when I’m on walks with Maya (my mind is always busy, especially on walks) and try to imagine what life would be without vision, taste, hearing, one of your limbs. We couldn’t imagine. Yet, the thought always makes me grateful for my health and fully-functional body. Happy Memorial Day weekend to you and Cliff.
Liesbet, I have to admit that I did not give my mobility and full use of my senses much thought when I was younger. Sad to say, I probably took them for granted. Not any more though!
Happy Memorial Day weekend to you, Mark, and of course Maya. 🙂
I know of Paul Wittgenstein because of a M*A*S*H episode! Charles helps a GI continue to play the piano using PW & the music he had commissioned as inspiration. 🎶
Oh, my gosh! Pop culture and Paul Wittgenstein intertwine. Thanks for tuning in here, Ally! 🙂
I had never heard of Paul Wittgenstein. But how amazing! A great video to send to someone who is tempted to give up.
When I think of persistence, I think of Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Thanks for sending this powerful message. I hope others will read this and be inspired, as I have been. Again, thanks, L. Marie! 🙂
What perseverance and stamina! Never heard of this hero before, but he obviously had such a love for his music that he couldn’t give it up!I didn’t get too far in piano with both my hands and arms intact, although I love to play for my own enjoyment. My husband, Hardy doesn’t give up easily, but he too gave up on piano after a year! I made sure my kids persevered! Two passed their grade 8 and one did her ARCT (highest academic standing in the Toronto Conservatory of music). Never heard of this hero before, but what stamina. He obviously had such a love for it that he couldn’t give it up!
Like you, I can play for my own amusement, usually hymns or folksongs. My children took 2-3 years of piano lessons and viewed them as a pain. However, our youngest grandson loves (ADORES!) music and is a member of the Jacksonville Youth Symphony. He plays the tuba and wants to add the trombone soon. He and his brother are learning the guitar together.
Kudos to your own children who excelled in music, one in performance, very impressive. Thanks for sharing all this, Elfrieda! 🙂
Marian, doing a big of skimming here and you can be happy you still try to keep up your piano skills. I have not touched ours much in the last 10 years and so much has been forgotten: which note is that on the staff at the very top line? I ponder. But as I dig in again, it is coming back. I was never very good but played for my own enjoyment too.
Thanks for the followup here. I pass our piano every day on my way to the writing desk and feel a pang of guilt when I go for days without taking the time to tickle the ivories. My piano tuner reminds me every year that playing it often will keep it in better tune.
I’m glad you feel the nudge to keep up with the piano, even if it’s only now and then. Ha!
I hadn’t heard of Paul Wittgenstein but I find his testimony about pushing forward remarkable. I read the life story of Hellen Keller, have admired the music of Stevie Wonder born blind and Ray Charles who loss his eyesight as a very young child, and a book that changed my life in my last year of high school entitled Dibs, In Search of Himself which tells the story of a young boy who find himself back to reality, and many other stories about people who have persevered and not given up on their dreams or their visions.
In fact, whenever I see a person with physical disabilities playing in the many sports arenas or a blind person walking with a seeing eye dog that sees for him or her, or a person in a wheelchair guiding themselves through the crowds, I am amazed at his or her perseverance. And I have to remind myself to stop complaining when my knees ma hurt or that it rains so much here where I live etc. etc. People who have a tough time getting where they want to go and do not give up give me strength to face the tough times in my life.
One of my most favourite perseverance, persistence, stamina, endurance, and gift quotes, I go to often and sometimes I have to go to it daily. And it is from Philippians 3:13 Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the prize for which God has called me heavenward to Jesus Christ. This verse has kept me going so many times even if it means crawling until I can stand up.
Pat, thanks for adding more names to the list of persevering folks. I had not heard of Dibs. Thanks too for sharing the verse from scripture: Philippians 3:13. And I can relate at times to your comment. “This verse has kept me going so many times even if it means crawling until I can stand up.” I often add Bible verses to my posts, but it’s even better when they come for other readers.
Huge thanks! ((( )))
I’m listening to Paul Wittgenstein as I type Marian and his rendering of it is beautiful. A hero to overcome this loss in WW1. Gratitude to Ravel too for composing this piece especially for him.
I looked up quotes on persistence, which is likened to perseverance and there are some lovely ones. I love what Pat said and all others too so far.
‘It always seems impossible until its done’. Nelson Mandela. This sums it up for me in a few short & sharp words.
Thank you for the musical interlude and also for the reminder that in spite of disabilities, one can overcome. Or some can, and those ‘some’ are an inspiration.
I know you appreciate music, and I’m glad you took the time to hear Pianist Paul run over the keys, seemingly effortlessly. Thank you too for adding the name of the revered South African Nelson Mandela, who persevered to help overcome racism and apartheid in your country.
I agree: “It always seems impossible until ‘it’s done!” is a great quote to remember, especially when one’s energy and spirits are flagging. Thanks, Susan! 🙂
Marian — That is amazing; it blew me away! Thank you so much for sharing it here. This post made my day.
It takes a lot of fuel to run your writing engine these days, Laurie. I’m glad this post made your day! 🙂
Hi Marian, thank you for sharing this great post. Completely amazing.
Happy to share the inspiration, Robbie! Thanks for stopping by to read & comment! 🙂
AMAZING THINGS FLOURISH ALL AROUND US. WE MUST STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN!
This man is a hero, a show-stopper, in fact. Thanks, Joan, for noticing and caring to comment too. 🙂
Thanks for sharing, Marian. A music/history lesson and tribute well done!
I’m glad you enjoyed it. I know you too like to be a hunter/gatherer in your writing as well. Thanks, Bette. And may you and your husband enjoy the holiday! 🙂
Wow, that’s impressive. Thanks for sharing, Marian. I had not heard of Paul Wittgenstein. I have seen people paint with their feet or holding the paintbrush with their teeth. That always amazes me, because even with two hands I can’t paint…or play the piano well, for that matter. Also, I love the quote. I found your blog through a comment you left on Ally’s The Spectacled Bean. It’s nice to “meet” you.
Christie, how pleased that you followed the “bread crumbs” from Ally to me. Welcome! Like you, I’m neither a painter nor a pianist, but I like the inspiration such people provide, especially if the creative person overcomes obstacles.
I did enjoy checking out your vibrant website, where it’s obvious you enjoy the beauty of nature.
Again, thanks for stopping by. Do visit again! 🙂
How extraordinary. This gave me a boost to get out there and do something with more vigour today.
Well, I’m glad you got a boost with this post. I’m reading this now in late afternoon when my energy is flagging. I’ll get some rest and wake with vigour tomorrow. Thanks for sending a happy thought today, Arlene! 🙂
No, I didn’t know about Paul Wittgenstein and thanks for sharing his talent and perseverance, something so many more of us can use and need. I wrote in my latest book about my friend who has cerebral palsy and can’t walk/scratch his eye, feed himself. Brilliant guy with amazing hearing which he uses to listen and CARE, and amazing memory. He calls me on the anniversary of each of my parents’ passing (my dad died over ten years ago, my mom one year ago) and says “thinking of you.” The only calendar he owns is in his brain. To Memorial Day and honoring those who have served.
Thanks for reminding me of this amazing man, which you described in Flashes of Life, which I read and reviewed.
You know, I believe when one or more of our faculties leave us, other senses are heightened, in this case hearing and memory. I’m especially impressed with these lines: “He calls me on the anniversary of each of my parents’ passing (my dad died over ten years ago, my mom one year ago) and says “thinking of you.” Simply amazing that you have this fine fellow in your life, Pam.
May you and your guy(s) have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! 🙂
I hadn’t heard of Paul Wittgenstein before. What an inspiring story. I watched the video, which was really remarkable. I never would have known he was playing with one hand, not two.
I found this article months ago and saved it for the Memorial Day celebration this weekend. Yes, Paul W. is truly remarkable. And how wonderful the famous composer Ravel’s concerto fit the need completely. Thanks for tuning in again today, Liz! 🙂
You’re welcome, Marian!
No, I’d never heard of Paul. But what determination and tenacity. Amazing! 🙂 x
I just read your blog on Sally’s website and commented. You have so many well-wishers! I know that fact doesn’t assuage the grief, but at least those who love you can keep you from giving up in despair.
Plus, you too have tenacity and fierce determination to persevere in spite of the pain, liking commenting here. So appreciated, dear Debby!
You are very kind and encouraging my lovely friend. Thank you so much again. Hugs xo
That was amazing Marian.. what an incredible man to turn such a tragic loss into a triumph…hugs
Sally, so happy to see your smile today.
In a different way you shine as an encourager too. You have been like a sister to Debby, for example, helping her “triumph” during her pain of loss. And you do the same for SO many others in blog land, including me. Huge thanks! ((( )))
You introduced me to a truly remarkable person and pianist. Thank you. My co-author of our book in progress has just written movingly about children with disabilities and the role of grandparents in their lives. There are heroes all around us. The mind is the biggest weapon of the disabled and chronically ill. We can’t restore physical health, but we can encourage and support the mental and spiritual health of those who go through loss. A post like this one encourages all of us to be more empathetic.
Thank you, Shirley. For some reason your comments reminded me of Joni Eareckson Tada, who at age 18 became quadriplegic. No doubt her family, including grandparents, rallied to support her becoming a visual artist, singer, even acting in a movie of her own life. Yes, her mind and spirit were the biggest weapons against defeat.
I’m thrilled that you are now having multi-generational experiences back in your “native” land as you complete your book. 🙂
Hi Marian – I’d heard of Paul … but now have just read up about his family … and found some other connections. I’ve just written about blind cooks for my #WATWB … especially one who suggests we ‘first catch our rabbit’! I do find it amazing the struggles that people can overcome.
I loved our 2012 ParaOlympics when so many incredible athletes as well as other performers were on show – the orchestra particularly stood out. I wrote about them too … so inspiring …
Thanks for reminding us about the Wittgenstein’s and particularly Paul … have a blessed Memorial Day – Hilary
It’s so nice to meet you here, Hilary. And thank you for widening my perspective on over-comers. I have never heard of blind cooks. I suppose they have a heightened sense of smell and taste – ha!
I have just checked out your website and find some thrilling connections. We have visited Vancouver Island; I too found a Third Act in writing after years in education. Because of the #WATWB mention, I believe you must also know my friend Susan Scott, who resides in South Africa. Readers please note: http://positiveletters.blogspot.com/
Again, thanks for visiting. Do stop by again!. 🙂
I had not heard of Paul Wittgenstein or his commission of a piece for left hand. What an inspiration! I haven’t read every comment, but can add Evelyn Glennie, a world known and honored deaf drummer who shared her artistry and how she listens through vibrations in a TED talk, “How tTo Truly Listen”: https://www.ted.com/talks/evelyn_glennie_how_to_truly_listen
She inspires me when my hearing problems become discouraging. Thank you for inspiring me today.
I was using a melon baller–cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew–before I read your comment and felt sorry I hadn’t let the TED talk accompany my hand motions. But then I really listened, doing nothing else but enjoying Evelyn Glennie’s passion for percussion. What a gift. Thank you for sharing this amazing woman and her talent. Thank you, thank you for another nudge to really listen for the vibrations! 🙂