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Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor, Op 148

'Godard: Piano Concertos' (CDA68043)
Godard: Piano Concertos
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Movement 1: Con moto – Allegro – Moderato
Movement 2: Andante –
Movement 3: Scherzo: Allegretto
Movement 4: Andante maestoso – Moderato

Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor, Op 148
The Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor, Op 148 (1893), begins with a lugubrious version of the first movement’s main subject, heard over the hushed semiquavers of the piano’s opening gestures. This theme returns at the beginning of the last movement and rounds off the whole work. In its folk-like innocence it resembles the second subject of the A minor Concerto’s finale, especially when sung plaintively for the first time by the piano in G major where it also sounds like a distant Gallic relative of the theme from the last movement of Balakirev’s Piano Sonata. After its restatement by the orchestra, Godard moves back to the tonic minor for an Allegro passage in triplets using fragments of the folk-like theme. This leads to an enchanting dialogue between oboe and flute beneath the piano’s demisemiquavers (32nd notes), but it is not long before the principal theme reappears, forcefully restated in the best tradition of the Romantic concerto, and bringing the movement to an end.

Little of the above sounds like the work of someone routinely classified as a salon music composer. The lovely theme of the second movement (in B flat major) most certainly does, however, and most touching it is too. Godard, incidentally, liked to use the full range of the keyboard, and here occasionally takes his soloist down to the very bottom B flat. A central section in five flats threatens to obliterate the serenity of proceedings but calm soon returns, a quiet series of arpeggios taking us, attacca, into the Scherzo, in F minor. Here, in this delightful and all-too-brief movement of Mendelssohnian gossamer, are hints of the famous scherzos from Litolff’s Concerto symphonique No 4 and Saint-Saëns’s G minor Piano Concerto No 2.

The Andante maestoso opening of the last movement announces the return of the very first theme of the concerto. After a lengthy cadenza-like episode, the finale proper begins—and what an extraordinary finale it is: a moto perpetuo of sextuplets (three groups to a bar), often in unison an octave apart, punctuated by a sprightly second subject given to the flute. Soon this breathless—but never frenetic—toccata gives way with satisfying inevitability to the grandiose statement of the concerto’s main theme, after which the soloist hurtles towards the close in a blaze of interlocking chromatic octaves.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2014

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