Hyperion Records

Piano Concerto No 2 in A major, Op 189
Nearly half a century separates Taubert’s first concerto and his Piano Concerto No 2 in A major Op 189 (c1874). Now in his sixties, there had not been the type of significant changes to the form of the genre that had occurred around the time of the composition of his first concerto, with Mendelssohn’s Op 25 (and Taubert’s own Op 18) revealing profound changes to the form of the concerto. However, to be sure, the concertos of Moscheles, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Alkan, Rubinstein, Litolff, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and a plethora of others had manifested developments in the areas of harmonic expansion, cyclic development, and, of course, increased virtuosity.

In Taubert’s Piano Concerto No 2 the composer now expands the design to incorporate a 54-bar Andante cantabile—again featuring a unified tutti/solo presentation of thematic material—that serves as an introduction to the subsequent Allegro marcato. The incredibly beautiful, soaring cello melody of this Andante is of particular note. Perhaps Taubert was aware of the salient use of this instrument in the second movement of Clara Wieck’s Piano Concerto in A minor Op 7 (1836), as well as Schumann’s own masterpiece in the same key, Op 54 (1846). Interjections of distant, chromatic mediant areas show the composer’s thorough command of colourful, chromatic harmonic juxtapositions, and the closing section of this introduction is hauntingly beautiful. Again, Taubert’s masterful command of orchestration is present throughout this concerto, with the frequent interjections of various solo winds.

The Allegro marcato is in F sharp minor (the relative of A major, the home key as established in the Andante), progressing to the soloist’s entry with the primary theme. It is highly virtuosic, though this is nothing new at this late date, of course. Several changes of key lead us through the transition section, before the statement of the secondary theme in E major (the dominant of the relative major). Here, the movement merges into a developmental passage, with restatements of the earlier thematic material now presented in several different keys. The primary theme returns in F sharp minor at the recapitulation, and it becomes apparent that Taubert has constructed a sort of rhapsodic, whirlwind journey through many keys, with statements of the primary thematic material in various guises. As in his Op 18, gone are any vestiges of a formal end of the exposition, which, instead, merges seamlessly with the development. The secondary theme returns in A major before quickly moving to the F sharp minor tonic, largely retracing the exposition’s harmonic shifts, but now leading towards the home key. The movement is capped with a lengthy transition to the dominant of D major, the key of the subsequent Andantino.

The rather brief Andantino in 6/8 begins with a tutti, shortly joined by the soloist. The music turns subsequently to F sharp minor, recalling the key of the previous movement. D major soon returns to round out a ternary design.

The finale, Allegro vivace e leggiero, is cast in A major. Following statements of the primary theme in this key by both the soloist and orchestra, and a transition to the dominant (E major), the secondary theme is introduced by the piano. Revealing the cyclic design mentioned previously, Taubert now restates his initial theme of the entire concerto in this dominant key, creating a span across the complete design, followed by yet another earlier connection, the secondary theme of the Allegro marcato, now stated in E major. The subsequent material of the exposition is now restated in the recapitulation, in the home key.

from notes by Stephan D Lindemann © 2010

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