Movement 1: Mässig bewegt
Movement 2: Mässig langsam
Movement 3: Langsam – Belebter – Lebhaft – Ein wenig ruhiger – Tempo I
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