a wealthy industrialist offered him the opportunity to commission works for left hand alone from some of the top composers in the first half of the 20th century. He commissioned works from Maurice Ravel, Richard Strauss, Paul Hindemith, Benjamin Britten, Sergei Bortkiewicz and others.
Wittgenstein played the premiere of the Bortkiewicz concerto in 1923 in Vienna. Wittgenstein was pleased with the work and played it many times before World War Two. As with all of the works Wittgenstein commissioned, he held exclusive performing rights to the concerto until his death in 1961. Even after that, Wittgenstein's widow would not allow the scores to leave his library. It has been only within the past few years that some of this left-handed piano repertoire has become available.
The concerto is divided into four tempo sections, but can be thought of as being in two distinct movements in a unique form:
Allegro dramatico - The composer begins with a loud theme for orchestra, after which the solo piano enters with a dramatic melody which is taken up by the orchestra while the piano accompanies with figures that make the listener forget that there is only one hand being used. The second theme is traded off between piano and orchestra and is of a more quiet but still restless nature.
Allegretto - The next section acts as the usual slow movement in a concerto. New themes are stated, the piano has an extended solo, and the orchestra assumes a more gentle demeanor as the piano and orchestra engage in an atmospheric dialog.
Allegro dramatico - The material from the beginning interrupts with what amounts to the recapitulation of this first movement.
Allegro vivo - The music of this second movement is in contrast to what has transpired. It is an uncomplicated but interesting dance that unwinds into a rousing finish to the concerto.
The skill and artistry in which Bortkiewicz writes for the left hand and orchestra makes this concerto one of my favorites. A solid knowledge of piano technique and use of left-hand devices and pedalling creates an illusion so strong that if the listener didn't know better, they would think this is being played by two hands.