Hyperion Records

Concertstück in E minor
1881; dedicated to Nanette Kuhe who probably gave the first performance at the Brighton Music Festival in 1881

'Benedict & Macfarren: Piano Concertos' (CDA67720)
Benedict & Macfarren: Piano Concertos
Track 7 on CDA67720 [11'36]

Concertstück in E minor
Walter Macfarren (1826–1905) was the son of a dramatist, and the younger brother of one of the leading Victorian composers, George Alexander Macfarren. He had a long career as a piano teacher at the Royal Academy of Music: among his students were Tobias Matthay, Stewart Macpherson and Henry Wood. His vast output of piano pieces is tuneful, amiable and unambitious; like many English musicians of his generation, he evidently took Mendelssohn as his ideal and model. As a student he composed a piano concerto in B minor, performed in 1845 but now lost. His only extant work for piano and orchestra is the Concertstück. He dedicated it to one of his pupils, Nanette Kuhe, the short-lived daughter of Wilhelm Kuhe, a prominent German immigrant who founded and directed the Brighton Musical Festival (1871–82). It was there, in all probability, that Nanette premiered the work in 1881, when it was published with a dedication to her.

The Concertstück, after an opening flourish, embarks on a sombre tune for winds and strings in E minor, which sounds like the main theme of a sonata-form movement, until the music suddenly turns back to E major. The piano then announces the ‘real’ theme, a Mendelssohnian Song Without Words in E major. The strings take it up with rich piano accompaniment, and an equally melodious second subject appears in the dominant key, followed by a trill, cadence, and closing tutti. A sudden change to E flat major heralds a repeat of the second tune; the return of the main song in E major is again prepared in the minor mode. After further developments there is a final-sounding trill for the piano, but the cadence is interrupted with a tutti in C major leading to a cadence in E. Strong double octaves for the piano begin the drive to the finish.

from notes by Nicholas Temperley © 2009

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