Bartosz Filip Sosnowski

Potential of the Limitation: Performance Practice and Artistic Expression in Piano Music for the Left Hand Alone

University of Stavanger, Faculty of Performing Arts, Department of Classical Music

The project is a study of performance practice in piano music for the left hand alone, with a particular focus on the solo repertoire of Paul Wittgenstein, an Austrian pianist who lost his right arm during WWI. Over his 45-year career, Wittgenstein became a patron of one-handed pianists and commissioned numerous works specifically for the left hand, including 17 piano concertos by composers such as Ravel, Britten, Prokofiev, Strauss, and others. While the piano concertos are relatively well-known and some are regularly performed, a significant number of solo works remain unexplored and unrecorded since Wittgenstein's time.

In this project, I delve into this unique repertoire, investigating its artistic potential from the performer’s perspective.


The primary texts for my project are Wittgenstein’s introduction to his "School for the Left Hand" and a lecture manuscript from New York in which he metaphorically compares piano technique to a two-story house, where the first floor contains everything known from two-handed technique, while on the second one is the left hand alone. My project is an attempt to discover what this second floor represents and what artistic possibilities may arise for me as a pianist by reaching and exploring it. The expanded role of the left hand determines a new relation between performer and instrument and thus potentially redefines some aspects of piano technique. The purpose of the project is to investigate these new skills and requirements through my own process of practice and performance, and to provide insights into possible interpretive approaches to the repertoire.

Research questions:

  • How do the limited pianistic possibilities affect the expressive side of performance?
  • How is the impression of the completeness and complexity of sound in solo works for the left hand alone created by the performer?
  • Does performing with the left hand alone provide a new quality of artistic expression?
  • How can the experience of studying and performing the left-hand repertoire be instructive and enriching for conventional piano technique?

Bartosz Filip Sosnowski is a Polish classical pianist with a masters degree from the Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz, Poland. He also studied at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo and the University of Stavanger. In 2012, he made his debut with the orchestra, performing Ravels Piano Concerto for the left hand. In the following years, he continued exploring the repertoire for the left hand, which led him to a Ph.D. project. 

Bartosz has performed in many concert halls across Norway and Poland as a soloist and in collaboration with cellist Natalia Orlowska in a cello and piano duo.