On Hindemith's Klaviermusik mit Orchester (Klavier: linke Hand), Op. 29
The recipient was the pianist Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961), the offspring of an exceedingly wealthy industrial family. The talented pianist had lost his right arm during World War I but was able to continue his career by arranging repertoire works for the left hand and commissioning composers to write works especially for piano left hand. The commission assigned to Hindemith was probably made in late 1922. The latter most likely sensed, however, that his work would seem strange and unusual to Wittgenstein, whose musical background had been formed in turn-of-the-century Vienna. For this reason he attempted to prepare the pianist in a letter accompanying his first packet: "Dear Mr. Wittgenstein, you will be receiving here the last three movements of your piece and I hope that your shock will have abated by the time you peruse the score. It is a simple, completely unproblematic piece and I feel sure that you will enjoy it after a little while (perhaps you will be a bit horrified at first, but that doesn't matter). You will certainly understand the piece, at any rate – in any case of doubt I will always be there to give you precise information."
Hindemith's fears proved well founded: the pianist, who had also obtained exclusive performance rights for performances of Klaviermusik mit Orchester with the purchase of the autograph manuscript, never performed the piece in public – but never gave it to another soloist, either. These performance rights were dissolved upon his death in 1961, but his widow now refused to permit any viewing of the manuscript for decades. It was only after her death in 2001 that the executor entered into sales negotiations with the Fondation Hindemith. Upon examination of the manuscript, however, it became apparent that the musical materials on offer were not the original score, but a copy made by an unknown copyist. Nevertheless, it was possible to confirm the authenticity of the musical text with the help of short-score sketches for the first, third and fourth parts that had been preserved in Hindemith's estate.
Since the autograph manuscript of the musical materials sent by Hindemith to Wittgenstein in 1923 had to be considered missing, the copy had so far been considered the most important source of the work, which was premiered in December 2004 by Leon Fleisher and the Berlin Philharmonic under the direction of Simon Rattle.
The copy now loses the status of a primary source because, as has become known recently, the autograph musical materials are found in the autograph manuscript collection of the Basle national economist Arthur Wilhelm (1899-1962). It is not so far been possible to ascertain the exact time and circumstances of its acquisition by Arthur Wilhelm. Both autographs are in an excellent state of preservation. Immediately after receiving the two deliveries, Wittgenstein entered numerous fingerings in the score and part. His decision not to play the piece was therefore not premature, but was made following a thorough study of the score.
It is thanks to the transfer of the Arthur Wilhelm Autograph Manuscript Collection, as a deposit, to the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basle, that these autograph manuscript have now been made available for research.