Hyperion Records

Piano Concerto in B flat major, Op 30
The pianist and music-writer Gerhard Puchelt aptly describes the effect of Kiel’s piano compositions by making a comparison with Mendelssohn: ‘Even at the outset the two musicians are very different. Mendelssohn’s piano music is always addressed to the listener, his ideas only endure if there is a partner who shares his feeling. Kiel has little of this directness, his music is inherently calming. But let him who will hear it’.

Here, perhaps, lies the reason why Kiel composed only one piano concerto. The essence of this form of composition demands a certain level of extrovertness that was alien to him. Nevertheless, with his Piano Concerto in B flat major he managed to write an undisputed masterpiece. It is marked throughout by a Beethovenian pathos, but without in any way being a copy. As always, Kiel also knew how to integrate outside influences into his style. The concerto was composed in 1864 and published one year later by the renowned publisher Simrock, which also published the works of Brahms. The work was dedicated to conductor, pianist and composer Hans von Bülow (1830–1894). Despite this prominent recommendation it failed to become popular. And yet it would certainly have enriched the monotonous programmes of the piano virtuosos of the time.

The first movement is infused throughout by the rhythm of Beethovenian revolution music. The main theme starts with an idea descending in a wonderful gesture that is repeated twice more and harmonically recontextualized. A relatively short transition leads to a cantabile second theme in B flat major. In the middle of a crescendo passage by the orchestra, the piano enters with virtuoso scales. What looks at the beginning like a solo exposition remains only an episode. After a few bars the orchestra again dominates and prepares the definitive entrance of the soloist with the main theme. Here Kiel plays creatively with the formal pattern of the sonata movement. Compared with the broad exposition, the development is kept relatively short and in terms of content is limited chiefly to the virtuoso gestures of the soloist. In return, the reprise has its surprises. It is virtually mirrored back and starts with the second theme. When the soloist performs the main theme fortissimo, he forms the transition to the coda.

For the slow movement, Kiel chose F sharp major, the key of Chopin’s Nocturne Op 15 No 2 and Barcarolle. From the outside the movement seems like a three-part song form in which a melodiously tranquil outer section frames a rhythmically accentuated middle section. However, Kiel seems less concerned with the thematic processes than with the general mood. He evokes dreamlike shadowy landscapes that would be worthy of Schumann or Chopin. This musical clair obscure is brushed to one side with a toccata-style finale. Here the composer interweaves rondo and sonata forms. The main subject (‘scherzando’) dominates the entire movement with its lively dance rhythm. The interludes are not very profound. Nevertheless, Kiel manages a more lively final peroration, which also offers the soloist adequate opportunity to show his technical prowess.

from notes by Hartmut Wecker © 2003
English: Hyperion Records Ltd

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