Piano Concerto No 2, Opus 100, is written in the unlikely key of B major but ends in E major. Abandoning convention further than its predecessor, it begins in a mellow and autumnal frame of mind before burgeoning into an unhurriedly expansive discourse between soloist and orchestra. The opening theme, presented without preamble by the lower strings, is to serve as a motto or reference point throughout the work. A secondary subject is presented in G major, laying the ground for combination with the first subject by actually evolving out of its opening notes. Soon an Allegro is reached in which the soloist is able to move between lyrical freedom and a greater rhythmic muscularity. This in turn leads to an idyllic slow ‘movement’ in which the second subject is given free rein. Here it reveals fully its rhythmic, lyrical and pianistic relationship to the slow movement in Glazunov’s Piano Sonata No 1, Opus 74, published in 1900, a work containing one of the composer’s most memorable broad melodies in its finale (recorded on Hyperion CDA66833). After the concerto’s slow section, development continues, now employing the secondary theme as well and evolving a further, partially sequential theme from it. Another balletic scherzo leads eventually to a finale whose purpose is, broadly speaking, that of its counterpart in the earlier concerto. The themes explored thus far transmute constantly into new forms, crowned by a chorale-like variant of the motto theme from the beginning of the work. The peroration generates far greater energy and excitement than might have been anticipated at the outset of this genial and attractive piece, even if a final unison statement of the motto by implacable brass may strike some listeners as belonging to an altogether more formidable and less personable genre. Some have seen in it an excuse to question the inspiration of the work as a whole, whereas it is at worst a brief misapplication of symphonic convention in music which might have ended a couple of bars sooner.
The model for the Second Concerto is as difficult to categorize as Glazunov’s style in general. The outward format suggests the synthesis of movements adopted by Liszt and copied assiduously by pianist-composers of his own ‘stable’ such as d’Albert. The mood and feeling, however, are more in keeping with the ‘narrative’ intentions of Medtner in his Third Concerto—and it was to Medtner that Glazunov paid his heartfelt tribute by declaring him the ‘true defender of the sacred laws of art’.
from notes by Francis Pott © 1996