Sunday, April 21, 2019

Project 366 - Piano Concerto Collections

Project 366 continues in 2019 with "The Classical Collectionss - A Continued journey through the Western Classical Music Repertoire". Read more here.

Our first chapter in the Classical Collections provided a survey of the Piano Concertos of Mozart. Todaay, we will focus on the works of four pianists (keyboardists to be more precise) who happen to be composers. Let is consider their collections in chronological order.

The Keyboard Concerti of Johann Sebastian Bach

The keyboard (harpsichord) concertos (BWV 1052–1065) follow the standard solo keyboard,  strings and continuo configuration of the Baroque period. There are seven complete concertos for a single harpsichord (BWV 1052–1058), three concertos for two harpsichords (BWV 1060–1062), two concertos for three harpsichords (BWV 1063 and 1064), and one concerto for four harpsichords (BWV 1065). Two other concertos include solo harpsichord parts: the concerto BWV 1044, which has solo parts for harpsichord, violin and flute, and Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major, with the same scoring. In addition, there is a nine-bar concerto fragment for harpsichord (BWV 1059) which adds an oboe to the strings and continuo.

Most of Bach's harpsichord concertos (with the exception of the 5th Brandenburg Concerto) are thought to be arrangements made from earlier concertos for melodic instruments – mainly the violin, but sometimes the oboe (in the case of BWV 1060, both of them!)

Today’s collection ignores the fragmentary concerti, and the concerti for three and four solo instruments.

Concerto No. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052 [Guide #141]
Concerto No. 2 in E Major, BWV 1053 [Guide #271]
Concerto No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1054 [Guide #271]
Concerto No. 4 in A Major, BWV 1055 [Guide #141]
Concerto No. 5 in F minor, BWV 1056 [Guide #141]
Concerto No. 6 in D Major, BWV 1057 [Guide #142]
Concerto No. 7 in G minor, BWV 1058 [Guide #271]
Concerto for Two Keyboards in C minor, BWV 1060 [Guide #271]
Concerto for Two Keyboards in C minor, BWV 1062 [Guide #271]

Listener Guide #271 - Christophe Rousset Plays J.S. Bach

I recall having discussed many times Johann Sebastian Bach’s penchant for reusing his compositions, and setting them for different instrument combinations. Let’s recall, for instance, the curious case of the keyboard concerto BWV 1052 and again presented in its violin setting in another Listener Guide in our series. As is the case for most of these concertos, it is left unclear which came first… (ITYWLTMT Podcast # 285 - 27 July 2018)

The Beethoven Piano Concertos

There are five Beethoven Piano Concertos given opus numbers in the Kinsky catalog – there is one “youth” piano concerto and a concerto movement contemporary to concertos 1 and 2 in the WoO list – neither of these are in this survey. Although it was published as “#1”, the first concerto performed publically was “#2” in Vienna as part of Beethoven’s official debut concert.

Perhaps due to the Violin Concerto's lack of success at its premiere, and at the request of Muzio Clementi, Beethoven revised it in a version for piano and orchestra, which was later published as Op. 61a. For this version, which is present as a sketch in the Violin Concerto's autograph alongside revisions to the solo part, Beethoven wrote a lengthy, somewhat bombastic first movement cadenza which features the orchestra's timpanist along with the solo pianist.

Piano Concerto No.1 in C major, Op.15 [Guide #177]
Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major, Op.19 [Guide #178]
Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, Op.37 [Guide #272]
Piano Concerto No.4 in G Major , Op.58 [Guide #179]
Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat major Op.73 -"Emperor" [Guide #273]
Piano Concerto in D major, Op. 61a (after the violin concerto, op. 61) [Guide #178]

Listener Guide #272 – Beethoven and Schoenberg

The two concertos featured (Beethoven’s third and Schoenberg`s) are both featuring Glenn Gould in the 1950’s accompanied by incarnations of the CBC Radio orchestra. At one point, the CBC had four orchestras across the country: Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. A few years ago, the only CBC orchestra left (in fact, the only full-time radio orchestra in North-America at the time) was the Vancouver-based orchestra. (ITYWLTMT Podcast #39 - 20 Jan 2012)

Listener Guide #273 – Beethoven Sonatas and Concerto

Of the five Beethoven concertos, the fifth (Emperor) is surely his best known, and its powerful rondo stands out as probably a precursor of the great piano concertos that will follow in the coming century – notably the great Russian concertos, part virtuoso showpiece and part catchy tune. The late great Vladimir Horowitz is the soloist, with Fritz Reiner conducting the RCA Victor Symphony (i.e. the NBC Symphony). (ITYWLTMT Podcast # 158 - 30 May 2014)

Frederic Chopin’s works for Piano and Orchestra

Relatively early in his career Chopin realised that he excelled in performance of more intimate delicacy than was generally possible in the concert hall. Nevertheless in a world that still made little distinction between composer and performer, he provided himself with compositions for piano and orchestra with which to make his name at the start of his career. It was only once he had established himself in Paris in the 1830s that he turned rather to the kind of playing that he made so much his own, performances that demanded great technical proficiency, but made no attempt to impress, as Liszt and Kalkbrenner did, by displays of sound and fury.

The concertantre works rely heavily on the solo instrument, and Chopin himself played them on occasions without the assistance of an orchestra.

Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" from Mozart's Don Giovanni, in B major, op. 2 [Guide #274]
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, op. 11 [Guide #185]
Fantasy on Polish Airs, in A major , op. 13 [Guide #275]
Rondo à la Krakowiak, in F major , op. 14 [Guide #276]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor , op. 21 [Guide #275]
Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante, in E majo, op. 22 [Guide #277]

Listener Guide #274 – Claudio Arrau (1903–1991)
Claudio Arrau León was a Chilean pianist known for his interpretations of a vast repertoire spanning the baroque to 20th-century composers, especially Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt and Brahms. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century. (ITYWLTMT Podcast # 302 – 22 Jan 2019)

Listener Guide #275 – Chopin Showcase
The Piano Concerto in F minor dates from 1829. Chopin wrote the piece before he had finished his formal education, at around 20 years of age. It was first performed on 17 March 1830, in Warsaw, Poland, with the composer as soloist. It was the second of his piano concertos to be published and so was designated as "No. 2", even though it was written first. The performance I retained is from an old vinyl in my collection featuring a young Cecile Licad. (ITYWLTMT Podcast # 292 - 5 Oct 2018)

Listener Guide #276 – Piano and Orchestra
Rondo à la Krakowiak (subtitled “Grand Rondeau de Concert”) was written in 1828 and dedicated to Princess Anna Zofia Sapieha, whose mother, Izabela Czartoryska, was influential in shaping the burgeoning Romantic aesthetic in Poland. Its title derives from a Renaissance-era Polish dance, said to be associated with courtship practices. Chopin, always showing an interest in native dances, as demonstrated by his numerous mazurkas and polonaises, was well-suited to adapting folk-like music to the concert hall. (ITYWLTMT Podcast # 307 – 29 Mar 2019)

Listener Guide #277 – This and That
This listener guide. Comprising two=part titles, includes Chopin's breath taking Andante spianato and grande polonaise brillante. (ITYWLTMT Podcast # 42 - 10 Feb 2012)

Sergei Rachmaninov’s works for Piano and Orchestra

Unlike their illustrious predecessor Tchaikovsky, both Prokofiev and Rachmaninov were great pianists ,  both Conservatory trained on the instrument. Rachmaninov however had to turn to his pianistic abilities shortly after the Russian Revolution as a way to provide income for his household, relegating his composing to the back burner. His formidable technique does transpirte in every page of his four piano concerti, and his late masterpiece, the Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini.

Piano Concerto No 1 in F sharp minor, Op 1 [Guide #278]
Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor, Op 18  [Guide #215]
Piano Concerto No 3 in D minor, Op 30 [Guide #72]
Piano Concerto No 4 in G minor, Op 40 [Guide #279]
Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, Op 43 [Guide #79]

Listener Guide #278 – Concerto #1
Less travelled in this collection are the first and fourth piano concertos. The First has the distinction of being Rachmaninov's "opus 1", though he had composed some other works during his conservatory years - including an abandoned attempt at a concerto. Like Prokofiev's First, this is a student work - composition students were usually advised to base their efforts on a specific model for their first exercises in new forms. In this case the model was the Grieg Piano Concerto which was a favorite work of his.. (ITYWLTMT Podcast #113 - 12 Jul, 2013)

Listener Guide #279 – Concerto #4
Rachmaninov wrote the initial sketches of what would be his fourth concerto  just prior to his exile and only returned to it in 1926 during a period of particular homesickness. The creative process was also difficult, as he made revisions even before its publication and struggled mightily with the length of the work – which had yet to be performed publicly. (ITYWLTMT Podcast # 119 - 23 Aug 2013)

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