One Handed: A Guide to Piano Music for One Hand, compiled and annotated by Donald L. Patterson

October 1, 2000

One HandedOne Handed: A Guide to Piano Music for One Hand,compiled and annotated by Donald L. Patterson.  Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1999. xvi + 313 pp. ISBN 0-313-31179-X.

Pianists generally perform using both hands. However, a sizable amount of repertoire has developed over the years for pianists to play using only one hand. Donald L. Patterson developed interest in this body of repertoire because of a shoulder injury. This interest was the impetus for the compilation of materials which comprise One Handed: A Guide to Piano Music for One Hand, which is a cross between a bio-bibliography and the several books on various aspects of piano literature by Maurice Hinson (of which the first was the Guide to the Pianist's Repertoire, Indiana, 1973). Patterson searched extensively on-line, as well as traveling to numerous libraries, to find all of the works he could locate which use only one hand. Each piece has an entry in the book which includes the standard materials found in a bibliography: the title, a number, the length of the work, publication and dedication information, and a brief description of the work. However, the pedagogical information and value judgments are more of the type found in the Hinson books, rather than the standard bio-bibliography. When reading the entries, one can sense the intense personal involvement that the author has with the subject matter.

A fundamental question that must be asked about the repertoire forming the subject of the book is: "Is this repertoire musically valid?" Certainly one could say that the two works from opus nine by Scriabin, the Brahms transcription of the Bach "Chaconne," and many other works listed are indeed valid and musically fulfilling works. Much of this repertoire has been composed for pianists who could use only one hand. Some of the left-hand-alone literature has been written specifically for Leon Fleisher, Gary Graffman, and Paul Wittgenstein, while several of the right hand works were written for Lionel Nowak. Some of the pedagogical works were composed to develop greater facility with the left hand, while other works were composed to exploit the virtuosity of a pianist using only one hand.

The "Introduction" lays the groundwork for the book. The story of why the author needed to find works for the right hand alone is followed by a description of his search for this music. An excellent discussion of physical considerations for performing one handed at the piano follows. Patterson is extremely gracious in acknowledging all who have helped him with his search for materials. The rest of the material is organized into the following six chapters: "Original Works for the Right Hand Alone," "Original Works for the Left Hand Alone," "Music Arranged or Transcribed for One Hand Alone," "Concerted Works for One Hand," "Repertoire Anthologies for One Hand," and "Selected Discography." An excellent bibliography on the subject is included. This organization allows the reader to find a work for a specific need.

This work is unique in that it covers both concert and pedagogical works. The distinction between the two is made by placing a "p" after the number of each work he considers to be pedagogical. This volume would even be more useful if there would be separate lists of concert and pedagogical works. If that were the case, a teacher or pianist could find works that suit a specific situation more easily.

The nature of the listings is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that a location is listed where each entry may be found. This will assist researchers to find an available copy of each work. The curse is that the book does not list the current publication status of all of the works; thus, pianists will not be aided in discovering if the works discussed are currently available for purchase. Since it appears to the reviewer that the primary purpose of the book is to facilitate the finding of one-handed repertoire rather than promoting further research on the topic, this information is sorely missed.

The thoroughness of the research is apparent. The listings are accurate, extensive, and useful. The diversity of locations where the works may be found is another example of the depth of the research. This work fills a niche and should find its way to many teachers' and libraries' bookshelves.

3524 Last modified on October 17, 2018