Movement 1: Lento ma non troppo
Movement 2: Allegro molto ed appassionato
Movement 3: Allegro moderato
Movement 4: Allegro molto
Movement 5: Lento ma non troppo
Movement 6: Allegro molto
In Lyapunov’s Second Concerto, the orchestral opening is one of the most lovely in the Romantic concerto repertory. The initial version of the first theme, in the tonic key of E major, Lento ma non troppo, is immediately heard, taking us at once into the same world of exotic oriental fantasy as is to be found in the slow movement of Balakirev’s C major Symphony (1897), especially part of that movement’s second subject, which also happens to be in the same key of E major, but with certain harmonies taken from the first subject. From that starting point, however, Lyapunov has created a more memorable theme than either of Balakirev’s, though the ambience is the same. The piano joins in with delicate filigree decoration and the enchantment is complete. Here and there in the concerto there are occasional hints of the gorgeous but evil princess ‘Tamara’, portrayed in Balakirev’s symphonic poem of that name. The other two themes in Lyapunov’s concerto, different in character, are not difficult to pick out; and in the usual position, before the main development section, there is an orchestral ritornello reminiscent of material in the finale of the Balakirev symphony. In the abridged recapitulation there are rearrangements; for example, when the initial theme reappears it is not in E major, as one would expect, but in the mellow key of D flat major, played majestically on the brass and accompanied by piano embellishments – a wonderfully imaginative touch. There are many other melodic and harmonic felicities in the concerto, as well as the ubiquitous Lisztian virtuoso fireworks, proliferating into cadenzas. Early-twentieth-century avant garde Russian and French musicians will have judged that Lyapunov had little new to say in his Second Concerto. But, nearly a century later, that need not concern today’s listener, since in spite of its derivations it is a fully mature and, on its own terms, original work. And while the Lisztian cyclic structure is there to be investigated, the music-lover may wish to enjoy luxuriating in the enthralling music for its own sake. In addition, it is worth reiterating that Lyapunov’s late Romanticism is quite different from Rachmaninov’s, even if the same tricks of the trade are sometimes used.
from notes by Edward Garden © 2002