One-handed pianist Nicholas McCarthy: ‘Just go for it!’

Born without his right hand, Nicholas McCarthy is one of a few left-handed pianists worldwide - he shared his favourite left hand repertoire with Classic FM.

Nicholas McCarthy

One-handed pianist Nicholas McCarthy, born without his right hand, is preparing for his first full solo recital. He specialises in music composed solely for the left hand.

His story is remarkable – not only does he perform with only his left hand, but the 23-year-old has only played the piano since the age of 14. He has since secured a place at junior department of London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and graduated from the Royal College of Music.

McCarthy originally had his sights on becoming a chef, until he heard a friend playing Beethoven’s 'Waldstein' Sonata.

“I was absolutely awestruck by it,” he said. “I started to play around with the piano, and my parents got me some private lessons.”

McCarthy is passionate about keeping the left hand tradition alive, and commissions new works to include in his programmes alongside the vast left hand repertoire he has already mastered. But even after being inspired by Beethoven, he doesn't feel like he's missing out.

“There’s so much brilliant left hand repertoire that playing such masterpieces like Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata seems almost wrong – I’ll leave that repertoire for the two handed pianists,” he said.

Among his favourites are Scriabin’s Prelude and Nocturne , and Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand. Britten also wrote Diversions for the left hand, and Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 4 is only scored for one hand.

He advised other young disabled musicians to pursue their ambitions: “Just go for it! People will get their knockbacks, but it’s how you deal with them that’s important.”

He is playing his first solo recital at Fairfield Hall in Croydon on 13 September.

Nicholas McCarthy plays Scriabin