Monday, 24 October 2011

Lefties: Poet, Pianist & Nobel Prize Winner: Tomas Tranströmer & Concert Pianist Leon Fleisher - Left-Handed Piano Playing and Repertoire

The first left handed piano was made in 1998, this is a mirror image or reverse of a normal piano - but with the bass up on the right and the highest notes on the far left. This assumes you can play with both hands, but what happens with you lose complete control of your right hand altogether. Can you still play? let's look at these inspiring stories from a nobel prize winner and some notable concert pianistss.

Tomas Tranströmer at the piano
Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2011. Tomas is also a keen pianist, however, a stroke has meant that he can only play with his left hand. He still performs in recitals, in some cases, his poetry is read while he plays.

Interview with Tomas Tranströmer 

Paul Wittgenstein - Left Handed Pianist
Leon Fleisher lost use of his right hand fingers and thumb after a gardening accident which almost ended his concert career. However, he was inspired to continue on thinking of Austrian Concert Pianist, Paul Wittgenstein, whose right arm was blown off during world war I. Wittgenstein commissioned compositions for the left hand from distinguished composers, Richard Strauss, Korngold, Hindemith, Prokofiev, Ravel and Britten. So now, there's established repertoire for the left hand. Fleisher cites there must be over 1,000 compositions in existence for the left hand alone, including a Brahms arrangement for left hand of Bach's Chaconne for solo violin written for Clara Schumann when she injured her right hand.

Probably one of the most well known is Ravel's Concerto for the Left-Hand.
Ravel's Concerto for the Left - Hand performed by Leon Fleisher

James Rhodes, plays Etude Pour La Main Gauche "Etude for the Left Hand" Op. 36 by Felix Blumenfeld

Further reading (left handed pianists and repertoire)


  1. This is so interesting, I've never heard of left handed pianos before.
    I've always wanted to learn a left hand etude though. For sports, my left side is stronger, for writing, I use my right hand. For piano, I'd like both hands to be equally as strong!
    Thanks for your post and sharing all those wonderful videos!

  2. great article,
    surprisingly i play stronger with my right hand, even though i'm left handed....
    perhaps it could be because cells in the right hemisphere respond more to melody than to language..
    very interesting though.

  3. The left handed playing by James Rhodes was beautiful and it’s amazing how humans can adapt after an injury and not give up their talents. It was heart warming and inspirational.
    left handed famous people