Hyperion Records

Piano Concerto No 2 in E minor, Op 85
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Kalkbrenner’s Piano Concerto No 2 in E minor Op 85 (1826) is dedicated to His Majesty the King of Württemberg. The opening Allegro maestoso begins with the same rhythmic device (and a similar theme) to Hummel’s A minor Concerto published in 1821—also Op 85, Kalkbrenner’s little joke, perhaps. Thereafter the two works quickly diverge, though the writing reveals an intimate acquaintance with Hummel, as well as with the concertos of Beethoven and Field and the arabesque figurations of Weber. Despite the lengthy introduction (88 bars), the orchestra has a similar role to that in Chopin’s two concertos, providing a cushion for what is, at heart, a piano solo, the scoring deliberately graded to support the sound of the piano. The work sets out in E minor, modulating to the relative major for the lyrical second subject (5'00''), and arriving at the tonic major at 10'22'' when this same cantabile episode returns. The slow movement is in C major, marked Adagio non troppo and subtitled ‘La tranquillité’. For a moment its opening theme comes perilously close to that of the last movement of Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony. Even here, there is a restless undercurrent beneath the tranquil surface. The finale is a catchy Rondo marked Allegretto grazioso. With a constant exchange of ideas, a second subject emerges at 1'48'' and a third at 5'45'', the initial theme returning at 6'52'' in the remote key of D flat major. A substantial cadenza brings us back to the home key and a whirlwind of demisemiquaver passagework to round off the work in triumphant fashion.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2012

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