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Piano Concerto No 1 in F sharp minor, Op 3
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The Piano Concerto No 1 in F sharp minor Op 3, was written in 1890, as recorded on the manuscript score found in the Moldenhauer Archives at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Its world premiere took place in Paris in 1891, at the Salle Erard with the Orchestre Colonne under the direction of composer Benjamin Godard, with Stojowski playing the piano part. It was a monographic concert of the 21-year-old composer’s music. Further early performances of the work included Stojowski’s performance with the Berlin Philharmonic on 19 February 1892, and British performances with Sir Charles Hallé’s orchestra in Manchester. The London publisher Stanley Lucas, Weber, Pitt & Hatzfeld Ltd issued the work in 1893. It is dedicated in homage to the Russian pianist and composer Anton Rubinstein.

A short analysis of the concerto is found in a review of the printed score in The Musical Times of 1 October 1893:

The work opens with a mysterious theme given out without harmony by the orchestra (was the composer thinking of a certain slow movement of Beethoven’s in one of his quartets?)—it constitutes the principal theme of the movement, and it is treated with great skill and variety. The second theme, in the orthodox relative major, which is evolved from it, forms an admirable contrast. The second movement, Romanza, is in D flat—i.e., enharmonic change for C sharp. The opening cantabile theme, of Chopinesque character, has much charm; it is first given out by the orchestra. After a middle section, più mosso, of some power, a return is made via a short but showy cadenza to the opening theme, which is now presented in ornamented fashion. The closing movement is an Allegro con fuoco, full of storm and stress; except in the hands of a great pianist it would stand but a poor chance. It is hoped that Sigismond Stojowski will soon have an opportunity of presenting his work before an English audience.

Eighty-eight years later, Maurice Hinson wrote of the concerto (in Music for the Piano & Orchestra: An Annotated Guide, Indiana University Press): ‘Beautifully laid out for the piano. Somewhat dated but contains some beautiful melodies. Virtuosic in places.’ The unique cyclic character of this concerto should also be pointed out. Before the brilliant coda of the final movement, the composer brings back two themes from the first and second movements and combines them.

Despite its beautifully lush themes, virtuosity, drama and originality, this concerto has disappeared from the mainstream repertoire. In Poland, the last traceable performance of the work by any of the country’s major symphony orchestras dates back to the early 1980s. In the USA, William Westney, professor of music at Texas Tech University, briefly revived the concerto, first with the San Antonio Symphony in Lubbock and then again with the Jackson (Michigan) Symphony Orchestra, in 1986 and 1990 respectively. Mistakenly, though, Mr Westney advertised his 1986 performance of the concerto as the first American performance, but, as the April 1911 issue of the Musical Courier notes, Stojowski himself performed the concerto in New York with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra under the direction of Josef Stransky on Sunday afternoon, 2 April 1911.

from notes by Joseph A Herter © 2002

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