Dvorak Piano Concerto

WEDNESDAY, January 1, 2020

Dvorak Piano Concerto, not so often heard…

Just how and why does something become popular, only to fade into obscurity? Who knows. Some things start out popular, fade, then never again regain the same level of fame. Some are never popular from the time of their creation, then something happens to bring them to prominence and they remain important from that time on. There are things that are very popular, fall out of favor, then regain popularity. And of course there are those things that are popular from day one and never lose their popularity. It’s all a mystery to me.

The piano concerto is probably the least known and least performed of Dvorak’s concertos…

This is a fact, but it doesn’t mean there is any reason why it is so, or that it is right or fair that this remains so. Popularity is a lot about trends and hype, and there is no telling when or how something will become viral. It took until after WWII for The Four Seasons by Vivaldi to fully catch. Often a movie will spark interest, or an animation, or even a TV show, and once something catches on it may then become a permanent hit. My assessment is that this concerto’s time, for some reason, has not yet come.

“An attractive Piano Concerto in G minor with a rather ineffective piano part”…

This is attributed to Harold C. Schonberg, and guess what? He was a famous critic, and by now you know I despise critics. I can find nothing about his musical background – did he even have one? Well, supposedly he studied piano with an aunt, but that’s hardly anything amazing. And I distrust anyone writing about what is good and not so good in music who has not mastered an instrument and at least performed, conducted, composed or taught music.As critics go he was not too bad, and he wrote some interesting books. But he was opinionated – nothing wrong with that – but also got paid for his opinions, some of which were just plain wrong. He trashed the playing of Glenn Gould and the conducting of Bernstein, which in my book that and some other topics make him so wrong about important matters that I have to ignore him.

Richter, again…

I’ll go with Richter, who was one of the most phenomenal pianists of the 20th century – or any other century for that matter. He loved this concerto and championed it. If he loved it, that’s enough to interest me, and just know it will be well played. This is an excellent recording.

Make up your own mind…

I like this concerto for a number of reasons too technical and complicated to go into here. I also understand the criticism of the piano writing, because I just don’t think that Dvorak was as expert at writing for piano as he was at writing for orchestra, but surely the orchestral part of a concerto is at least as important as the solo part. (I hope no one responds with “and don’t call me Shirley”.) There are things here and there that remind me of the two Chopin Concertos. There is something very intimate in the piano writing.

One piano concerto composers…

Mozart wrote a ton of them, Beethoven only five. Chopin, Liszt, Mendelssohn and Brahms wrote only two. I don’t know how long the list of those who wrote only one, but they include Schumann, Grieg and Dvorak. Dvorak’s is much less famous, but those of Schumann and Grieg are among the most popular music every written for the piano.

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2 thoughts on “Dvorak Piano Concerto

  1. I have just started listening to this concerto. What you said about critics got me thinking: What, in fact, is the role of a critic – and is there a role? I find I’m genuinely interested in this – have never thought about it.

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