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Piano Concerto No 1 in E major, Op 18
Composed by his early twenties, Taubert’s Piano Concerto No 1 in E major Op 18 is dedicated to his (and Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn’s) Berlin piano teacher, Ludwig Berger. Schumann heard Taubert’s Op 18 performed by the composer on 4 November 1833. The work affected Schumann deeply at that time, and he made a number of notes to himself about the concerto. Two years later, after the score had been published, Schumann reviewed Taubert’s Op 18 in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (issue 4, 1 April 1836). Here he recalled many of the positive aspects of his first impression of the work (more of this below), but also found too many similarities to Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No 1 in G minor Op 25 (composed in 1831, and published in 1832). Mendelssohn’s Op 25 has been credited as a ground-breaking concerto, shattering the previous formal paradigm that had been codified in Mozart’s concertos (all of which had been published by the early 1800s), and then essentially used by every composer since, including Hummel, Beethoven, Field, Dussek, Kalkbrenner, Weber et al. In a line-by-line comparison of the scores, Schumann noted the parallels between Mendelssohn’s Op 25 and Taubert’s Op 18, and credits Mendelssohn as the original.

It is true that there are many similarities: both concertos feature unified tutti/solo expositions, rather than the standard Mozartian form of concerto first movements, wherein the orchestra states their own ‘exposition’ of the work’s thematic material, all largely in the tonic, followed by a separate presentation (the ‘real’ exposition) by the soloist and orchestra of this thematic material, but now including a large scale modulation to the dominant (in a major-key concerto) or relative major (in a minor-key work). Instead, a brief tutti begins both the Mendelssohn and Taubert concertos. Both Mendelssohn’s Op 25 and Taubert’s Op 18 expositions include second-group digressions to distant key areas. Both include a clever trick of deceiving the listener into expecting that the second tutti is about to occur, but it is then withheld. This is accomplished by the soloist stating a series of virtuosic passages and trills over the dominant of the new key, which, in a Mozart or Beethoven concerto, would resolve to the new key in a blaze of pyrotechnics, and the commencement of the second tutti, confirming the new key. However, both the Mendelssohn and Taubert pieces lead seamlessly into a brief development or bridge section, through several keys, before the recapitulation. Neither concerto includes a cadenza; both prominently feature transitions that bond the movements together—a strategy probably borrowed from Beethoven, for example in the ‘Emperor’ Piano Concerto (No 5) where the second movement flows directly into the finale, and from Carl Maria von Weber, whose Konzertstück of the early 1820s connects all four movements together (both pieces were performed by Mendelssohn, and perhaps Taubert as well).

These similarities, however, do not negate the marvellous and distinctive music contained within Taubert’s Concerto, as Schumann was quick to point out (in his 1836 review of the published score, Schumann proclaimed: ‘Without waxing lyrical, I would call this Concerto one of the most excellent.’) The luxuriant, pastoral quality of Taubert’s E major opening theme in the brief tutti (which, in this progressive, organic design, will reappear later in the movement as the second theme and again in the finale) is quite fetching. The masterful orchestration, highlighting individual solo winds, is particularly appealing; the octave doublings of flute and oboe seem to echo those used by Mendelssohn in the Hebrides Overture (premiered in 1832). Indeed, the beautiful, sustained-note theme of the second movement, in the distant A minor, is initially scored for a plaintive, solo oboe, which Schumann noted with approval and admiration. Of particular note is the dramatic, deceptive unison resolution (after a passage in A major) to the flattened sixth, F major, before returning to the A minor tonic shortly there after.

The subsequent finale begins in E minor, and is full of sparkling virtuosic display for the pianist, weaving filigree around tutti thematic statements. This progresses to a statement of this same material in the relative major (G), confirmed by a large tutti section, which then returns back to the tonic. The music progresses, development-like, through several keys before arriving at E major, signaled by an Adagio fermata over the dominant, where the horns enter, a tempo, with a restatement of the opening theme and texture of the first movement. We can see in retrospect that Taubert has created a cyclic design, by tying together the thematic material of the finale with that of the opening movement (which, again, Mendelssohn did in his Op 25), which the soloist then weaves together with the primary theme of the finale.

from notes by Stephan D Lindemann © 2010

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Details for CDA67765 track 1
Allegro vivace
Recording date
24 April 2009
Recording venue
Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Recording producer
Ben Connellan
Recording engineer
Veronika Vincze
Hyperion usage
  1. Taubert & Rosenhain: Piano Concertos (CDA67765)
    Disc 1 Track 1
    Release date: August 2010
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