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Piano Concerto in A flat major, Op 17
1859/60; dedicated to Nikolai Rubinstein; published in 1881 with no mention of a (lost?) first movement

'Zarzycki & Żeleński: Piano Concertos' (CDA67958)
Zarzycki & Żeleński: Piano Concertos
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Movement 1: Andante
Movement 2: Allegro non troppo

Piano Concerto in A flat major, Op 17
Zarzycki’s Piano Concerto in A flat major, Op 17, composed in 1859–60, is dedicated to the Russian pianist Nikolai Rubinstein. Its history and construction are something of a mystery. There are just two movements: an Andante in A flat followed by an Allegro non troppo in F minor, changing to F major near the end. It does not seem credible that an opening sonata allegro had not been planned, even if the premiere in 1860 presented just these two movements. Yet no hint on the matter was given on the work’s publication in 1881 (this apparently is a revised version, though the extent and nature of the revision is unknown).

By opening with what would usually be a central slow movement, the concerto begins, as if in mid-sentence, with Zarzycki in lyrical mode. This is a more intense lyricism than found in the Grande Polonaise, with rhetorical elements in which the soloist and orchestra are equal partners. The second movement, in sonata-form, could hardly present a greater contrast. Its jaunty nature is partly down to its roots in the krakowiak, the dance form originating from around the city of Kraków that syncopates the first beat of its 2/4 metre. After the finale’s opening flourishes, its first theme (presented twice by the piano and a third time, extended, by the orchestra) is elusive, at least on the surface. Its stop-start character—emphasizing tonic and dominant chords—seems unlikely material. It immediately develops in the brillant manner familiar from Chopin, Hummel and Mendelssohn. This mood continues as the key switches to D major and the soloist explores a new vein of keyboard virtuosity. The second main subject, disarming in its directness, is introduced by the piano. The music soon reverts to the earlier jauntiness, developing into a galop as Zarzycki plays with both themes prior to the full recapitulation and a headlong coda.

from notes by Adrian Thomas © 2013

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Details for CDA67958 track 4
Recording date
29 June 2012
Recording venue
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Recording producer
Jeremy Hayes
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon & Dave Rowell
Hyperion usage
  1. Zarzycki & Zelenski: Piano Concertos (CDA67958)
    Disc 1 Track 4
    Release date: April 2013
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