MONDAY, January 27, 2020
The key of A…
This is one of three famous concertos by Schumann, Liszt and Grieg, all in either A major or A minor, and in a way they belong together. Liszt was born in the same year as Schumann, 1810, although Grieg was born 32 years later. Richter’s recording of this composition is legendary.
Franz Liszt wrote drafts for his 2nd Piano Concerto in A major between 1839 and 1840 when he was just exiting his teenage years. But the name he had in mind was Concerto symphonique rather than the name we know today, and in fact he only called it a piano concerto officially sometime in the early 1860s.
As so many artists choose to do, he simply put those drafts away for awhile, most likely knowing that it was not yet a mature work. When he came back to it, he did a huge amount of revising over many years. Liszt dedicated the concerto to his student, Hans von Bronsart, who gave the first performance, with Liszt conducting, in Weimar on January 7, 1857. But he was still not done. The final revision ended in 1861. Liszt was then 51 years old, so there was a period of more than 30 years between his initial ideas and what he was finally pleased with.
This concerto is one single piece but divided into six sections that are connected by several themes that are developed and varied.
- Adagio sostenuto assai: slow, very sustained
- Allegro agitato assai: fast, very agitated
- Allegro moderato: moderately fast
- Allegro deciso: fast, decisively
- Marziale un poco meno allegro: a little slower, march-like
- Allegro animato: fast, animated
A master of balance between the orchestra and piano…
Liszt attained an absolutely perfect balance between all the orchestral instruments and the piano so that everyone compliments everyone else, and because of his mastery of the piano himself everything is crystal clear. There are no problems performing the piece, and that is a rare thing. Usually there are obvious weaknesses here and there in either the piano writing or in the orchestral “accompaniment”. There are none in this.
Furthermore, the orchestra does not sound as if it is accompanying the piano. It sounds as if two forces are balanced and at all times complimentary, working together.