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Piano Concerto in C minor, Op 45
1850; first performed under the title Conzertstück at a Philharmonic Society of London concert in 1850; published in Leipzig in 1852

'Benedict & Macfarren: Piano Concertos' (CDA67720)
Benedict & Macfarren: Piano Concertos
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Movement 1: Allegro maestoso
Movement 2: Andante pastorale – Allegro – Tempo I
Movement 3: Allegro con spirito

Piano Concerto in C minor, Op 45
The Piano Concerto in C minor Op 45 starts in Mozartian fashion, with a tense theme in dotted rhythms. It sounds like an orchestral tutti, but the piano soon appears on a diminished-seventh arpeggio, and later, without waiting for a clear ending of the orchestral introduction, enters forcefully in the remote key of E major. The normal complementary key (E flat major) is reached by a roundabout route. The warmly tuneful second subject is started by the piano alone, but a solo cello winds its way in before the quiet conclusion. After a long solo display through various keys, the recapitulation is heard tutta forza. The second subject recurs in a Mozartian C minor rather than a Haydn/Beethoven C major. The coda (energico con fuoco) provides a big build-up towards final-sounding chords, which unexpectedly move away from the tonic. A tonally unanchored passage, with mysterious calls from the woodwinds, ‘glides’ into the next movement, as the Musical World put it in a detailed review.

The Andante pastorale uses the key of the flattened sixth (A flat) favoured by Beethoven in his C minor concerto, and by many subsequent composers. A horn plays an opening melody with a pretty accompaniment on the piano and plucked strings. The piano then takes up the tale. An episode starts in F minor; then comes a totally unexpected shift to Allegro, followed by a tonal surprise with loud piano chords in 6/8, and another mysterious passage with fragmentary phrases for various instruments. If this suggests a romantic narrative, its nature is left to our imagination. The main tune returns and the movement ends in a luscious dream. The finale (Allegro con spirito) begins with a bustling theme in F minor, but it soon becomes clear that the triumphant key of C major will set the mood. Several more surprises are in store: a contrasting section in E major before the middle cadence in G; a fugato, beginning in the strings; and a brief recall of the tune from the Andante, played by the oboe. In the drive to the finish, triplets provide an added rush of excitement.

from notes by Nicholas Temperley © 2009

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