Hyperion Records

Piano Concerto in B flat major, Op 18
composer
completed on 2 October 1867 and first performed by the composer in Basle on 1 December

Recordings
'Goetz & Wieniawski: Piano Concertos' (CDA67791)
Goetz & Wieniawski: Piano Concertos
Details
Movement 1: Mässig bewegt
Movement 2: Mässig langsam
Movement 3: Langsam – Belebter – Lebhaft – Ein wenig ruhiger – Tempo I

Piano Concerto in B flat major, Op 18
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Goetz finished the full score of his Piano Concerto in B flat major on 2 October 1867, though its cadenza was only notated by him in 1873. Its first performance took place at Basle on 1 December 1867, when he made his third appearance that year in his own works. It proved to be the most successful of his orchestral works played during his lifetime, and was praised by the local press (Basler Nachrichten, 4 December 1867) as ‘evidence of his outstanding talent, crafted, melodious, fiery and reflective, with a brilliant piano part. It is effective without playing to the gallery, and is, in the best sense of the word, modern’. The review concluded with a hope that it would be taken up by the first-rank concert organizations in Germany. Attempts to have it programmed at Leipzig, Germany’s musical epicentre at the time, failed during the next two years (‘If I was a pretty girl, I would have succeeded; I’m afraid that’s all that matters there’, Goetz moaned to Joseph Widmann in November 1869). He played it twice in Zurich, on 22 December 1868 and 3 March 1874, his last appearance anywhere as a pianist. Later that year he sent it to his amanuensis Ernst Frank at Mannheim with a caveat: ‘You’ll have to look through it with care before the message becomes clear. Do so three to seven times before you decide whether or not you want to perform it in public.’ This was a strange piece of advice, as the music has little about it which implies either a hidden message or emotions of great depth; on the contrary its folksong-like immediacy and melodic warmth find a welcome with any concert audience then and now. Goetz clearly rated the concerto, especially the second and third movements (‘flawless’), but wanted no preferential treatment or favours from Frank: ‘It must come to mean something really special to you. If it does, then that’s fine and would please me much.’

Frank eventually performed the concerto on 7 November 1876. Goetz wrote some last-minute advice at the end of October: ‘How unselfish of you to spend such time-consuming hours on finger studies! I am quite ashamed and only hope you get pleasure from it. The first movement is not easy and makes most demands on virtuosity. On the whole I did not have enough strength, but you will. My music requires a Chopin technique as you find in his Etudes Opp 10 and 25, his Nocturnes, Scherzi and Polonaises. Brahms needs a Schumann technique.’ Goetz’s gratitude and modesty shine through in a final letter (4 November): ‘I must think of you and your dear fists. You are thinking more than usually of me, but whether in a friendly way is another matter. Here and there a curse will escape you at such and such a nasty place, but when the wretched passages are under control once and for all, the orchestra is there and the interplay begins, hopefully you will still find pleasure in the music and the public in you.’

Hermann Goetz’s Piano Concerto is one among many in the genre that have been overlooked, though it has had some welcome revivals in recent years. It is music which is grateful on the ear, and virtuosic in a more subtle than usual display of technical difficulties. Its themes are charming and their development imaginative. The scoring favours solos for oboe, clarinet and horn, while Goetz manages to shun the German nineteenth-century trap of dense orchestration (double winds, two each of horns and trumpets, timpani and strings). Above all, Goetz’s music is open-hearted, possessing a freshness and optimism that belie his own appalling physical condition. His melodic gift shines through, while his harmonic language attempts nothing too adventurous, even in the wake of all that Wagner was doing at the time to break the mould of conventional thought on the subject. After all, by 1867 Tristan was already two years old, so too Brahms’s German Requiem, the other work which impacted heavily on composers and audiences of the day. True, we detect the sound and musical language of Schumann and Chopin in the style, but as with all good music, Goetz’s Piano Concerto ultimately bears its own identity.

from notes by Christopher Fifield © 2010

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67791 track 1
Mässig bewegt
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-10-79101
Duration
16'50
Recording date
17 September 2009
Recording venue
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Goetz & Wieniawski: Piano Concertos (CDA67791)
    Disc 1 Track 1
    Release date: November 2010
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