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Piano Concerto No 1 in E minor, Op 5
The Piano Concerto No 1 in E minor, from the years of 1897–8, follows the traditional three-movement structure: fast-slow-fast. However, the first movement Allegro is preceded by an introductory ‘Adagio maestoso’ whose main theme is picked up, albeit in a modified way, by the first Allegro subject proper. It is characterised by a diminished 5th drop resolving upwards a minor second (E-A#-B). The structural importance of the introductory Adagio maestoso gains marked significance as it is reiterated at the end of the movement. There is nothing in the musical language—that is, in the rhythm, melody, harmony and musical structure as well as in the traditional orchestration—which Brahms would have found unfamiliar.

The second movement, with its largely pizzicato orchestral accompaniment, is in A minor. Its melodic contour is also derived in a subtle way from the ‘Adagio maestoso’. The last twenty-eight bars, during which the piano plays the opening theme originally introduced by the orchestra with broad arpeggio chords finally establishing the key of A major (known as ‘tierce de Picardi’), is an old trick, but it works superbly.

The third movement, Vivace, brings to its dramatic conclusion the opening Adagio maestoso theme which, motto-like, gives unity to the whole composition. Of the three movements this is perhaps the most Brahmsian in style with its lush sixths and thirds. A chorale-like theme played by the orchestra interrupts the flow of the cadenza. Then a frenetic coda in 6/8 is approached via a series of trills. Finally the time signature changes again, now to 2/4 Presto, leading the composition to its conclusion—not in E minor, but in the triumphant E major.

from notes by Otto Karolyi © 1993

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA66684 track 3
Vivace – Cadenza con orchestra – Vivace
Recording date
18 June 1993
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Philip Hobbs
Hyperion usage
  1. Dohnányi: Piano Concertos (CDA66684)
    Disc 1 Track 3
    Release date: October 1993
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