Ravel Unravel

Libretto for action concert piece by the Italian composer Lucia Ronchetti, based on the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand by Maurice Ravel.

Note: Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm in a Russian prisoner-of-war camp in World War I. Wishing to remain a practicing pianist, he commissioned one-handed piano music from the leading composers of his day. Maurice Ravel wrote his Piano Concerto for the Left Hand for him. When, in 1932, Ravel first heard Wittgenstein play the concerto, he hated the pianist’s additions to the score. Ravel died in 1937 from an unknown brain illness that manifested itself as severe aphasia. The libretto draws on writings by and about Ravel, as well as the private-language section of the Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein, the pianist’s brother.

Warum kann meine rechte Hand nicht meiner linken Geld schenken?

                                            L. Wittgenstein

 

1. Our revels are now open.

There once was a right-handed man who had no right arm. Was he a pianist? He was a poor pianist, ein armer Pianist.

He lived in a concentration camp. Why? That’s where people went to concentrate in the twentieth century.

There was a concentration of campers in the concentration camp. Had all of them lost their right arms? All of them had lost their right to arms.

Only some had lost their right arms. Only others had lost their wrong arms. All of them had lost their equilibrium.

One moment they were concentrated, the next all of them had let go. It was just like that. It was like the falling of leaves in the month that some parts of the Empire called Lisztopad.

It was like the game of Go. The game of Go has rules. They are followed blindly.

Their loss had two panes, as it were, a right and a left. The right pain the pianist knew in his lost arm. The pianist knew his lost arm was not in pain.

The pianist also knew the left pain. It was like music he could no longer play. Music has lures. Are they followed blindly.

 

2. Our revels are now open-ended.

That is not right. I do not recognize my hand. Start over. 

There was a right-handed man who one time did not get his hand right. Was he a writer? He was a writer of notes.

Was he translated? His notes had no need to be translated, for there was nothing wrong with him. The tones in his head left the notes in his hand.

They called him a gatherer of notes, ein Komponist. He was composed. He had many beautiful sleeves until the day he did not recog, recog… Start over. 

One day one noted man took eight days to compose one note. He could not read his hand! He had to appeal to the jurisdiction of the dictionary.

He was together until he did not know his hand. How did he not know his hand? He did not know his hand like this.

There was an articulate man who once could not remember his hand. He said, Hello are you my long daughters: Alexia, Apraxia, Agraphia, Acalculia, and… what is your name, fair gentlewoman. Start over.

He could not start over. He could not start over. His notes fell, it was an emergency, ein Notfall.

 

3. Our revels are now ended.

RAVE:                         It is not at all like that.
WIT:                            I am not following you.
RAVE:                         That’s what I am saying.
WIT:                            I know what I am doing.
RAVE:                         Know what I am doing.
WIT:                            I am an artist.
RAVE:                         Your art is to follow.
WIT:                            I am not following you.
RAVE:                         I know what I am doing.
WIT:                            Know what I am doing.
RAVE:                         I am the artist.
WIT:                            That’s what I am saying.
RAVE:                         I am not following you.
WIT:                            Your art is to follow.
RAVE:                         It is not at all like that.

 

Contributor

Eugene Ostashevsky

EUGENE OSTASHEVSKY is a poet and translator. He wrote Ravel Unravel for the Italian composer Lucia Ronchetti. The piece premiered on April 11, 2013 in Ancona, Italy, and has since been performed in Rome, Florence, Modena, and Torino by cellist Francesco Dillon and pianist Emanuele Torquati.

ADVERTISEMENTS