'When I play Ravel’s Left Hand Concerto my goal is to make it sound like I have THREE hands'

4 November 2016, 17:07

Ravel Left Hand Piano Concerto Jean-Efflam Bavouze

Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand is one of the hardest concertos ever written. We caught up with one of today’s very best pianists, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, to take us through the tricky bits

A bit of background

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.

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet is renowned for his performances of Ravel’s music, so just before he went on stage to perform this work at the Southbank Centre with the orchestra Les Siècles, we asked him to give us a guide to the piece.

What’s the trickiest moment?

This bit does look absolutely terrifying…

What's the hardest moment in Ravel's Piano Concerto for Left Hand?

This looks absolutely fiendish


What’s your favourite moment of the concerto?

Well, ok, you can pick two.

My favourite moment

What is Bavouzet's favourite moment in the Left Hand Piano Concerto?


What are the challenges of learning Ravel’s Concerto for Left Hand?

Ok, diving into the piece in more depth: what are the particular challenges of learning this concerto. After all, most concertos Jean-Efflam performs are for two hands.

How is learning Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand different?

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet talks us through the challenges of learning this unusual concerto


What makes it particularly tricky to play?

The piano part involves some pretty hair-raising jumping around the keyboard – so much so that Jean-Efflam has to hold on the end of the piano which his other hand, as he demonstrates here.

The jumps of Ravel's Piano Concerto for Left Hand

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet demonstrates what makes this concerto so tricky


People often talk about this as quite a ‘jazzy’ concerto – what do they mean by that?

Ravel's unusal rhythms in the Left-Hand Piano Concerto

The brilliant Jean-Efflam Bavouzet demonstrates Ravel's experiments with polyrhythm


It also turns out that the melodic writing is pretty unusual too

The melody, as Jean-Efflam explains, is hidden in amongst arpeggios and you have to really work to bring it out. Here he is doing just that pretty effortlessly.

Picking out the melody in Ravel's concerto

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet demonstrates the skill needed to make the melody stand out in the Left Hand Piano Concerto


Jean-Efflam's recording of Ravel's Left Hand Piano Concerto is available to buy now on Amazon and iTunes.

And his latest recording – of Beethoven Sonatas is also out now on Amazon and iTunes.

Classic FM Apps

Get the Classic FM app for iPhone, iPad and Android - now with HD audio

bolero trombone fail

This trombone fail will make you laugh and then immediately feel awful for laughing

donald trump orchestra

A detailed music theory analysis of Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ song