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Journal Article

Paul Wittgenstein and the Performance Of Disability

Blake Howe
The Journal of Musicology
Vol. 27, No. 2 (Spring 2010), pp. 135-180
DOI: 10.1525/jm.2010.27.2.135
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/jm.2010.27.2.135
Page Count: 46
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Paul Wittgenstein and the Performance Of Disability
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Abstract

Paul Wittgenstein's one-handedness has typically been framed as a physical limitation at odds with an able-bodied ideology driving musical performance. Contemporary reviews, for instance, frame the pianist's disability as a tragedy heroically transcended during the course of virtuosic performance; others suggest that Wittgenstein successfully "passed" as two-handed. A study of Wittgenstein's numerous one-hand arrangements reveals similar narratives: the pianist often attempted to imitate the sound of two-handed piano music, and many of his own keyboard exercises train his one hand to assume the load of two. The "deficiency" model can be seen most dramatically in three attempts to arrange Witt-genstein's commissions for left-hand piano into a more "normal" performance medium: Sergei Prokofiev's expressed (but abandoned) interest in arranging his left-hand piano concerto for piano two-hands, Alfred Cortot's completed draft of a two-hand arrangement of Ravel's Concerto pour la main gauche, and, most significantly, Friedrich Wührer's highly successful two-hand arrangements of Franz Schmidt's left-hand pieces for Wittgenstein, which explicitly adopt a program of "strengthening" and "filling in" the supposed weaknesses of a disabled performance medium. Yet, despite the stigma it may have accrued, one-handed pianism is but a more prominent, more public example of the "bodily limits" all performers must confront; similar discourse surrounds the deficiencies of small hands or stiff fingers, for example. For the performer's body must negotiate its corporeal finitude with the complex demands of the musical score. As seen here in the career of Wittgenstein, an aesthetics of disabled performance presents this dialectic in heightened microcosm.

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