The modest Concerto-capriccioso, premiered in April 1876 by Jeanne Duvinage, the composer’s wife, functions on a unitary principle frequent since the vogue of the Germanic Konzertstück, of which Weber and Schumann left fine examples: a single movement structured as three fairly short linked sections. But where certain compositions of this type opt for an ‘open’ plan, in which each of the three sections introduces new material (possibly with a reprise), the Concerto-capriccioso falls back on an ABA’ form which presupposes a recurrence of the first themes after the brief slow episode. This less elaborate structure is explained by the fact that this piece was written some twenty years before the F minor Concerto and forty years before the Suite. It must be acknowledged that the inspiration of certain orchestral tuttis is not yet on the level of the later works, but that is no reason to deny oneself the pleasure of appreciating the luxuriant virtuosity deployed in the piano part. A long introductory cadenza at once places the entire work under the authority of an omnipresent soloist. The orchestra’s discursive role is fairly limited, but the brevity of the piece offsets the absence of genuine symphonic development. The opening Allegro presents two contrasting themes, the first nobly restless, the second eminently ‘Romantic’ with agitated triplets in the left hand. The brief slow movement seems more of a free fantasia than a full-blown musical structure, and probably owes its delightful harmonic excursions to Dubois’s improvisatory talents on the organ. After this, violins and cellos in octaves once more take up the initial theme of the first movement (subtly transformed for the occasion) while in the final section the soloist displays increased virtuosity, culminating in a spectacular coda. Though devoid of any great compositional pretensions, the Concerto-capriccioso is an attractive bravura piece, which may still be listened to with curiosity and pleasure.
from notes by Alexandre Dratwicki © 2013
English: Charles Johnston