Hyperion Records

Piano Concerto No 4 in E major, Op 64
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Moscheles composed his Piano Concerto No 4 in E major, Op 64, between March and June 1823 during his third visit to England. He gave the first performance in London on 16 June, and played it during his tour of German cities in the autumn and also on his return to Vienna in November. Bearing a dedication to Empress Caroline Auguste of Austria, it is the last of the virtuoso concertos of his touring years, before the increasing bias towards expressive and innovatory musical ideas in his later concertos. Although Mozart and (especially) Beethoven can clearly be heard as primary inspirations, there is a great deal of forward-looking writing which surely points to the concerto’s being in turn a specific inspiration for Chopin’s E minor Concerto, composed in 1830.

The opening Allegro maestoso presents two clearly differentiated, but not unrelated, themes. At first it sounds as if Moscheles is repeating the elegant device from his Third Concerto of using the first theme as the accompaniment to the second – but it is only theme 1a, as it were, and the true second subject appears in its proper place, first on clarinets and flutes and then from full orchestra. Finely orchestrated Mozartian phrases link the themes in regular classical style, with a delicious woodwind passage just before the soloist’s entrance. The piano writing does full justice to the vigour of the thematic material, the intricate passagework and virtuoso repeated notes interwoven with some truly expressive cantabile writing. After a remarkable extended trill passage, the piano begins the development in G major and is soon deep in a harmonically wide-ranging fugato section, followed by two moments that startlingly foreshadow Schumann’s Piano Concerto. There are fine harmonic side-slips and a conclusion of ever-building excitement.

The Adagio opens with a broad, nobly expressive horn solo, which the piano takes up and soon begins to elaborate in increasingly decorated, even Romantic style. There is a canonic duet with the still prominent horn, who graces the music with an unexpected and lovely contrapuntal suspension, and joins in unison with the pianist towards the end of the movement, uncowed by the latter’s ostensible supremacy. Over a final tonic pedal, more trills lead the music to fade into a mist of quiet, almost impressionist arpeggios.

The horns return to usher in the finale, apparently sombre at first; but the woodwind echo has a clear military sound, and the piano soon strikes up with ‘The British Grenadiers’, which proceeds to get the full classical rondo treatment, with running triplets and Moscheles’ favourite ‘Scotch snap’ rhythm adding to the excitement. An upward semitone shift into F ushers in a quietly jazzy section, which expands into some vigorous contrapuntal writing and then suddenly switches to what sounds like a quote from Tchaikovsky. After passing through many keys, the music finally releases the brakes for a short and joyful coda.

from notes by Henry Roche © 2005

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