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Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 4, Third Movement

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: two brothers, three arms…

In Vienna in the early 1900s, the Wittgenstein family was among the wealthiest and most influential patrons of the arts. Ludwig, the black sheep of the family, moved frequently, often secluding himself in order to pursue the philosophical writing for which he remains famous. Ludwig’s brother, Paul Wittgenstein, was a concert pianist with a formidable reputation as a virtuoso. After his right arm was amputated in WWI, Paul commissioned numerous works for left hand alone, including concertos by Ravel, Britten, and Prokofiev. Although Paul was more tolerant of modern music than his brother Ludwig, who claimed to hate “everything after Brahms,” Paul did not always perform the works written for him. Although Paul claimed that he “didn’t understand” the Prokofiev concerto, and shelved it, it has remained frequently performed, although often by two-handed pianists.

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