In a right-handed world, August 13th celebrates left-handedness. Since 1976, International Left-Handers Day celebrates left-handed folks. Historically, they were forced to write with their right hands as the left – sinistra inLatin – was associated with evil and misfortune. Today, however, we acknowledge significant figures past and present who veer left for their dominant hand. Famous left-handers include American presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth is a royal left-hander, as was her father, George VI (who was forced to use his right hand.) Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Paul McCartney, Bill Russell, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, and Jimi Hendrix are also notable lefties. Though the population of left-handers is small, they’ve nevertheless made a significant impact on the world. The world of music is no exception. Below’s a list of some of the world’s most excellent left-handed classical musicians:
Carl Philippe Emmanual Bach – We know the younger Bach was a lefty due to the letter written by his father, Johann Sebastian. The father indicated his son needed to improve the use of his right hand to match his dominate left.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Some scholars believe the classical prodigy was left-handed; others claim he was ambidextrous. Society of the time would have forced him to use his right. But who’s to say he was a talented lefty?
Sergei Rachmaninov: One of the most famous left-handers, Sergei was also renowned for his massive hands (now known as Marfan Syndrome). This certainly gave him an advantage when playing the piano.
Niccolo Paganini: Theories suggest the famous violinist and composer also had Marfan Syndrome. And yet another theory suggests he made a Faustian deal to play incredible music! It’s the latter theory that many believe his sinister sinistra was Niccolo’s dominant.
Compositions have also been written for left-handed musicians. Among the best known includes Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand. Commissioned by Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm during the First World War, Paul was determined to resume his career in the aftermath of the war. Other piano compositions include Bach’s “Gavotte,” Czerny’s 24 Piano Studies for the Left Hand, Liszt’s Ungarns Gott, and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 4.
To celebrate International Left Handers Day, click below and listen to a selection of left-handed piano music, available on Spotify.