Movement 1: Allegro molto appassionato –
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Allegretto non troppo – Allegro molto vivace
The placement of the cadenza was one novelty that influenced later composers (notably Sibelius in his violin concerto of 1903). Another was the remarkable opening of Mendelssohn’s concerto, which inverts the traditional tutti–solo arrangement, so that at the outset the soloist introduces the pensive theme, set high above a rustling orchestral accompaniment, that eventually builds and spills over into the delayed orchestral tutti. This device spawned many imitations, and arguably influenced some composers usually not at all associated with Mendelssohn’s refined romanticism (for example Rachmaninov and Bartók, in their third piano concertos).
Like Mendelssohn’s two completed piano concertos, Opp 25 and 40, Op 64 is in three movements connected by two transitions, a design that traces its lineage from Carl Maria von Weber’s Konzertstück for piano and orchestra of 1821, which features four compact, connected movements. The passionate, agitated quality of Mendelssohn’s first movement gives way to a warmly lyrical, Lied-ohne-Worte-like slow movement in C major. Only its contrasting middle section, which turns to A minor, recalls in its quivering tremolos something of the character of the first movement. The brisk E major finale, announced by celebratory wind fanfares, offers a capricious scherzo that unfolds as a rondo on two alternating themes—the first, a fleet-footed, delicate figure in the solo violin, and the second, a march-like subject that impresses perhaps as a nimble cousin of the contemporaneous Wedding March in the Midsummer Night’s Dream incidental music. Mendelssohn’s irrepressible finale harnesses an effervescent virtuosity to a clear, translucent design at once satisfying in its unexpected excursions and formal balance.
from notes by R Larry Todd © 2012