Hyperion Records

Piano Concerto in E flat major, Op 89
movement 1: first performed at the King's Theatre, London, in 1837, published as 2ème Concertino Op 19 by Schott of Mainz c1839; complete version published in 1867 by Cramer in London and first performed by Arabella Goddard at Crystal Palace 27 April 1867

'Benedict & Macfarren: Piano Concertos' (CDA67720)
Benedict & Macfarren: Piano Concertos
Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Rondo brillante: Allegro con spirito

Piano Concerto in E flat major, Op 89  

Piano Concerto in E flat major, Op 89
The Piano Concerto in E flat major Op 89 has a first movement in the classic form. There is an imposing opening tutti: the quietly lyrical opening theme is punctuated by ominous drumrolls. A surprise key change to D major delays the conclusion of the tutti. The piano enters with a flashy solo that soon moves to the dominant of B flat. In that key there are three elements: a new dotted theme for orchestra, later incorporating special effects on the piano (the highest available notes played una corda); a Chopinesque melody for the piano; and a bouncy closing theme. After the piano exits on a climactic cadence in B flat, the orchestra recalls dotted themes from the opening tutti, and the solo begins a long preparation for the E flat recapitulation: there is little or no modulation this time. It culminates in a written-out ‘cadenza in tempo’, also based on the dotted themes. But the recap of the main theme never comes: instead, we find ourselves hearing the piano’s Chopin-like tune in the home key, and after a lot more filigree work the movement ends with a curt orchestral tutti.

The Andante, again in the key of the flattened sixth (B major), uses a concise sonata form, with both first and second subjects led by the soloist; when the first subject returns it is in an ornate variation. The final Allegro con spirito is also in sonata form. After a sixteen-bar introduction the piano solo brings in the main theme, which strongly suggests the galop, a dance fashionable in Victorian ballrooms and exploited by many composers including Liszt. Four bars of dotted rhythms in the orchestra are answered by the piano in even phrases. After a tutti and a second subject, with an attractive diversion in G flat major, the ‘let ’er rip’ build-up begins in Rossinian fashion. Soon the tonality shifts to D flat major, where the galop theme re-enters. As in the opening movement, the long dominant preparation leads to the second subject; and an enigmatic series of modulations delays the final wind-up.

from notes by Nicholas Temperley © 2009

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