Piano Concerto for the Left Hand
As we stride ever onward, now into a summer that promises to be one like we have never experienced before, we continue to take a moment each day with music. Throughout these next few months, look for some more offbeat choices, many more of your own community selections and comments, and as ever, a little injection of faith, hope, and love into your day.
Got a song you just love? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to tell Jeff about it!
Today, a piece from the great French composer Maurice Ravel. Ravel was instrumental (no pun intended…) in the impressionist movement, picking up from its pioneers like Debussy and carrying the sensibilities of Impressionism into mid-20th-century music. His influence is clear on the composers of the ‘40s and ‘50s (Leonard Bernstein being a prime example).
In the late 1920s, Ravel was commissioned to write a piece for pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm serving in World War I. While a few notable composers had written pieces for one hand, there was no concerto, no piece to be played with an orchestra. Ravel took the challenge very seriously and came up with an enormous piece of music that, at least as my ear hears it, one would be hard pressed to know was for a one-handed player. Taking advantage of all 88 keys, that single hand flies all over in all sorts of keys and tempos.
As impressive as it is that it’s a one-handed concerto, it’s also quite definitive of Ravel’s style and ability as a composer. His name is probably most popularly associated with the very famous “Bolero,” but that piece is actually a bit of an outlier in his canon, more traditionally harmonic than much of his work. He liked to stretch his listener’s harmonic sensibility, which is what keeps him associated with Impressionism quite a while after the bulk of that movement was over. His journeys are surprising, beg curiosity. I invite you to close your eyes and follow me into the beginning of a visualization:
You’ve discovered a long, narrow staircase going down into what could be a basement, or a dungeon? As you descend, very soft music starts, perhaps a little ominous, but excitingly so, not scary. At the bottom of the staircase, you find not a big, open basement space, but a long corridor flanked with door after door after door…and now, you have about 18 minutes to open one at a time and see and hear what’s in each little secret room. What do you find?
God of Music and Exploration, Challenge my imagination today.
We also lift up the following prayers shared during last Sunday's worship service:
For all those that have been helping me with food and life for so long. I don't know what I'd do without them. (-Ken)
Even in our separation, God, help us to feel the deep delight of your love for all. Amen.