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Piano Concerto in F minor, Op 5  
The title page of Thalberg’s Piano Concerto in F minor, Op 5, with a dedication to Hummel

Piano Concerto in F minor, Op 5
Thalberg’s Piano Concerto in F minor, Op 5, his single essay in the genre, was composed in about 1830 (published in 1831) when he was still in his teens and much influenced by Weber and Hummel. If it is not as distinguished a work as the F minor concertos of his contemporaries Chopin and Henselt, in the right hands it remains a brilliantly effective showpiece that requires a virtuoso technique and not a little stamina.

After the orchestral statement of the two principal themes, there are just twenty-two bars of the first movement (Allegro maestoso) in which the pianist’s hands are not engaged with the keyboard. Rapid passages in octaves and thirds are grist to the mill, though after a particularly arduous section with fast repeated chords (shades of Schubert’s Erlkönig) some respite is offered as the music modulates into the tonic major (with a brief deflection into F sharp major) before a bravura cadenza.

The slow movement (Adagio), the least impressive of the three, offers scant breathing space before the sprightly rondo (Allegro). This has two themes, one in the minor, the other a major-key variant. Like a juggler, Thalberg keeps them both in the air, putting them through any number of transformations until the dashing coda when, just before the final tutti, he presents one final cruel hurdle: four bars of fast independent octaves in each hand (to be played molto staccato) followed by a rush of triplets. The orchestra eagerly takes over rounding off this youthful work in a suitably rousing manner.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2012

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