Wittgenstein, Paul

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Wittgenstein, Paul

Wittgenstein, Paul, noted Austrian-born American pianist and teacher; b. Vienna, Nov. 5, 1887; d. Manhasset, N.Y., March 3, 1961. He was of a musical family and studied piano with Malvine Brée and Theodor Leschetizky and theory with Josef Labor. He made his first public appearance as a pianist in 1913 in Vienna. He lost his right arm in World War I, at the Russian front; he was a prisoner of war in Omsk, Siberia; was repatriated in 1916. He then developed an extraordinary technique for left hand alone, and performed a concerto specially composed for him by his teacher, Labor. Wittgenstein subsequently commissioned left-hand piano concertos from Richard Strauss, Ravel, Prokofiev, Korngold, Benjamin Britten, and other composers, of which he gave the premieres (except the Prokofiev concerto, which he found unsuitable). He appeared in the major musical centers in Europe; toured America in 1934; in 1938, settled in N.Y.; became a naturalized American citizen in 1946. He taught privately in N.Y. (1938-60); also at the Ralph Wolfe Cons, in New Rochelle (1938-43), and at Manhattanville Coll. of the Sacred Heart (1940-45). John Barchilon’s novel The Crown Prince (1984) is based on his career. He was a brother of the famous philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire