Doc: The Case of the One-Armed Pianist

Nicholas McCarthy one-armed pianist

Nicholas McCarthy, one-armed pianist extraordinaire, in London

Earshot - RN logo

Earshot is a daily arts and culture program on Radio National, Australia

…a radio documentary for Earshot (Radio National) inspired by Oliver Sachs, Paul Wittgenstein, and Nicholas McCarthy

The Case of the One-Armed Pianist” is a 25-minute documentary produced, directed, and hosted by Guy Livingston, and broadcasts on Earshot/Radio National/ABC, May 24th, Sydney, Australia.

In 1914, fighting on the Ukrainian front, an Austrian soldier named Paul was shot in the elbow and captured by the Russians. He was imprisoned at the Omsk camp in Siberia, where they had to amputate his arm. This soldier was a young musician, and the brother of the famous philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. After the war, he became internationally famous, as the world’s first one-armed pianist.

Flash forward to the present, and a young British pianist, born with only one arm. His name is Nicholas McCarthy, and he has just released his first CD, on Warner Brothers Records.

Listen on Earshot

These are true stories of grit and determination, of agonizing pain, and of transcendent music.


  • Sound design and engineering by Erik Hense
  • Editorial consulting by Aletta Becker
  • Executive producer: Gretchen Miller
  • Special thanks to Maria, Sem, and RR.


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