On Air Now
The Full Works Concert with Rob Cowan 8pm - 10pm
Take a look at some of the pieces of music composed and performed in the face of adversity and disability.
Beethoven was not born deaf, but started to lose his hearing at the age of 25 in 1796. Five years later, he struggled with a personal crisis and contemplated suicide, but came through it to write some of his most heroic music – including the ‘Eroica’, Symphony No. 3.
This beautiful piece was performed by violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Gabriela Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill at the inauguration of President Obama. Performing sitting down is not unusual, but Perlman has a personal reason for remaining seated – he contracted polio at the age of four, damaging his legs.
No one knows exactly how Schumann injured his hand, but he was forced to give up his career as a performance pianist as a result of the injury. He might have damaged his finger using a strengthening device, or it could have been a side affect from his syphilis medication.
It’s a fabulous organ piece, written by a great composer, Louis Vierne. He was almost completely blind after being born with cataracts, and composed in Braille or on large manuscript paper. From an early age he had a gift for music, and was able to pick out notes from a Schubert lullaby on the piano at the age of two.
This concerto was written for Paul Wittgenstein, a concert pianist who lost his right arm in the First World War. Wittgenstein performed the concerto frequently and championed a great deal of repertoire specifically for the left hand.
After injuring his right hand, possibly due to stretching his fingers too far, Russian composer Scriabin wrote the beautiful Prelude and Nocturne to be played solely by the left hand.
Rodrigo contracted diphtheria at the age of three, leaving him almost completely blind. He wrote his compositions in Braille, to be transcribed for publication – his Concierto de Aranjuez is one of the most popular pieces of Spanish guitar music ever written.
Wonder-cellist Jacqueline du Pré is well known for her performance of Elgar's cello concerto. She started to lose sensitivity in her fingers in 1971 due to multiple sclerosis, but continued her performance career in spite of this for a further two years.
Hindemith composed his left hand piano concerto in 1923 for Paul Wittgenstein, the pianist who championed left hand piano works. It was never played by Wittgenstein, however: Leon Fleisher first performed the work in 2004.
Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli has recorded so many fantastic songs, it’s hard to pick just one. He’s the biggest-selling singer in the history of classical music, selling more than 70 million copies. He lost his sight after a football accident at the age of 12.