Hyperion Records

Concerto for piano and wind instruments
composer
1923/4; piano, winds and double basses; dedicated to Natalie Koussevitzky; first performed by the composer in May 1924 in Paris, Sergei Koussevitzky conducting

Recordings
'Janáček: Capriccio; Stravinsky: Piano Concerto' (CDA66167)
Janáček: Capriccio; Stravinsky: Piano Concerto
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66167  Archive Service  
'Stravinsky: Complete music for piano & orchestra' (CDA67870)
Stravinsky: Complete music for piano & orchestra
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67870  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Details
Movement 1: Largo – Allegro – Maestoso
Movement 2: Larghissimo
Movement 3: Allegro – Agitato – Lento – Stringendo

Concerto for piano and wind instruments
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The Apollonian virtues of neoclassicism’s clarity and leanness, to which the composer had been steadily drawn, were made unmistakably evident in his landmark Octet for wind instruments of 1923. Immediately following the Octet came the Concerto for piano and wind instruments, wherein the piano takes on a virtuoso concertante role, partnering an equally important wind ensemble (with no strings other than double basses). The Concerto was written in Biarritz in 1923–4 and dedicated to Natalie Koussevitzky, whose husband, Sergei Koussevitzky, conducted the May 1924 premiere in Paris with Stravinsky as the soloist. This three-movement work opens with a Largo written in the style of a French Overture. The stylized dotted rhythms quickly give way to a mechanistic Allegro reminiscent of many of the hard driving movements found among Bach’s keyboard Partitas and English Suites. The form of the first movement is somewhat akin to a classical concerto, complete with a developmental middle section that brings to mind the Czerny and Hanon keyboard studies familiar to all budding pianists. The recapitulation leads to a rhythmically complex, jazzy piano cadenza in the style of Gershwin, disclosing just how taken by American jazz, especially ragtime, Stravinsky had become. The movement ends with a return to the opening stately French Overture material.

The middle movement, originally written as a Larghissimo but changed to Largo in the revised 1950 score, incorporates a wondrously serene cantabile style of piano writing not often found in Stravinsky’s music of the 1920s. The movement’s two melismatic cadenzas carry a very rare rubato marking, while the pianistic writing is clearly rooted in the highly ornate filigree so often encountered in the slow movements of Beethoven’s early piano sonatas.

The closing Allegro, with its percussive opening material built around open fourths and fifths, exhibits a satirical pastiche blending café tunes, jazz rhythms and even a Baroque-styled fughetta that appears out of nowhere. Taken as a whole, the movement bears a clear relationship to the keyboard toccatas of the eighteenth century, with rapid changes of contrasting and often seemingly unrelated material. Stravinsky performed the work nearly fifty times over the next few years, and its success spawned the composition of several subsequent works for solo piano, two pianos, piano and orchestra, and piano and violin.

from notes by Charles M Joseph © 2013

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