Movement 1: Allegro con brio
Movement 2: Adagio non tanto
Movement 3: Allegro moderato e maestoso
Movement 4: Adagio non tanto
Movement 5: Allegro con brio
The photograph demonstrates Balakirev’s approval of the concerto, for which he felt a close affinity, as well he might since, as with the symphony but not to the same extent, he had a hand in its composition. Even after the score had been copied out in readiness for its first performance Balakirev could not resist last-minute emendations, albeit very minor ones: ‘It was necessary to alter one or two passages where the harmonies did not agree at the end’, he wrote to Lyapunov. During the course of composition, Lyapunov had told Balakirev that he was having difficulties with the slow movement. These may have been caused by Balakirev’s view that there should never be the slightest sign of sentimentality in such movements. Balakirev advised that he should look at the concertos of Chopin, the Larghetto of Henselt’s Piano Concerto in F minor and the Andante movement of Arensky’s concerto, also in F minor. Balakirev felt that Lyapunov’s slow movement should be in a key which contrasted with E flat minor, and suggested B major or D major. Lyapunov chose D major, but he decided that it should be incorporated in a cyclic concerto in one movement, like Liszt’s Second Concerto and, nearer to home, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Piano Concerto, which is not only in one movement but is based on metamorphoses of a single melody – a folk tune selected from Balakirev’s 1866 collection. Balakirev was favourably disposed towards this concerto and had conducted its first performance early in 1884. It was published in 1886, just before Lyapunov started work on his concerto. Moreover, in the recapitulation of Lyapunov’s concerto, the initial order of the subjects is reversed, as in the third and fifth piano concertos of Anton Rubinstein. But the most overwhelming impression made by the concerto is that it is imbued with the music of the first and second symphonies of Borodin: the way the subjects are contrasted and some of the ‘heroic’ materials, including Lyapunov’s use of the brass in his recapitulation, are derived from Borodin’s Second Symphony; and, even more importantly, the overall imprint of the First Symphony in E flat major (with a structurally vital introduction in E flat minor) is unmistakable. This symphony had been composed under the guidance of Balakirev, who conducted its première early in 1869 and who will have been happy to help the young Lyapunov to compose a concerto in a similar mould.
But all these influences and models do not prevent Lyapunov’s concerto from being a work of substantial merit, demonstrating the increasing maturity of his creative powers. The structure which emerged from his careful consideration of all the possibilities ideally suits the contents of the concerto. The opening Allegro con brio, in triple time, starts with an initial plain octave ‘call to arms’ in E flat minor (loud, arresting and abrasive) followed immediately by a melody with chordal accompaniment which modulates to the relative major key of G flat, with some cross-rhythms à la Schumann (smooth, tender and tentative). Lyapunov bases his first and third sections on these motifs, which are extended and transformed in many different ways. The middle Adagio non tanto section, in D major as we have seen, consisting of the contents of the sandwich, is beautiful without being maudlin and fits well between the outer layers; it recurs most enticingly towards the end, and in the coda all the themes are juggled with great dexterity. This is altogether much too good a concerto to have been neglected for so long. It is relatively short, and could easily be combined in a single concert programme with Rimsky-Korsakov’s concerto, also short, or with Lyapunov’s own Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes.
from notes by Edward Garden © 2002