Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Andante non troppo lento
Movement 3: Allegro con fuoco
The Piano Concerto No 2 is in three movements and dedicated to Melcer’s Viennese mentor Theodor Leschetizky. It was first published by Léon Idzikowski in Kiev and Warsaw in 1913. The concerto’s first movement, Allegro moderato, is in sonata-allegro form and in triple metre. The second, Andante non troppo lento, is in three-part song form and in common time beginning in C major, using a motif based on the interval of the sixth. The finale, Allegro con fuoco, in duple metre with whirling rhythms and a dance-like character, is a sonata-rondo form. The premiere took place in Leipzig in August 1898 and its first Polish performance was heard later that year in Lwów. The first commercial recording was made by the pianist Teresa Rutkowska in 1980, with the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Józef Wilkomirski. An earlier archival recording made for Polish Radio in 1952 by the pianist Józef Smidowicz (a participant of the Fifth Anton Rubinstein Competition in St Petersburg in 1910) and the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra in Katowice, with Jan Krenz conducting, was issued in 1999.
Melcer’s concertos demand technical virtuosity, versatility and stamina on the part of the pianist. About a minute into the first concerto, for example, the soloist is challenged with very rapid octave arpeggios in the right hand. In the second concerto the third-movement cadenza (where the second theme appears) poses another severe technical challenge for the pianist. Most of all, though, stamina is the main problem, especially in the second concerto where the pianist plays almost continuously. In her biography of her father Wanda Melcer quotes a review that appeared in the Kurier poranny following a performance in Warsaw of the second concerto on 30 October 1912. The critic Roman Jasin´ski wrote: ‘It is necessary to wonder why the Concerto in C minor does not find a permanent place in the repertoire [in Poland]. There are themes full of expression in Polish character that are developed so splendidly and broadly that they leave us enraptured … An unforgettable impression remains after hearing the Concerto.’ Ninety-five years later, the same remarks hold true.
from notes by Joseph A Herter © 2008