Movement 1: Maestoso – Allegro con fuoco
Movement 2: Andante tranquillo
Movement 3: Presto
The Piano Concerto in A minor is not, let us be frank, a first-rate work, especially when set beside MacDowell’s later pieces (someone once said they would give all his sonatas and both concertos for the two pages of To a Wild Rose). But, though somewhat immature, it is of more than mere academic interest and one can sense the white-hot inspiration in which it was written. After the opening maestoso chords (embellished in the otherwise unchanged edition posthumously issued in 1910), the soloist leads off into the fiery ‘Allegro con fuoco’ first movement. The end of the ‘Andante tranquillo’ second movement offers glimpses of the simple lyricism that was to be a trademark of MacDowell’s future miniatures. The confident finale (‘Presto’) in ABACA form recalls material from the first movement. Though influenced by the last movement of Grieg’s Concerto, MacDowell’s A minor has more in common with Anton Rubinstein’s showpiece concertos and, if the themes lack individuality and their handling is frequently rhetorical, it remains an effective work—one requiring a brilliant technique to bring it off convincingly.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2001