Herz’s Piano Concerto No 1 in A major Op 34 (1828, published as ‘Grand Concerto for the pianoforte’) is dedicated to [Caroline], Duchesse de Berry (1798–1870), eldest daughter of Francis, King of the Two Sicilies and widow of the assassinated Charles Ferdinand de Bourbon, Duc de Berry (second son of Charles X). The orchestral opening of the first movement (Allegro moderato) follows the example of many of its contemporaries: subdued statement of the first subject, repeat (fortissimo), quieter lyrical second subject, repeat of first subject and a gradual diminuendo/rallentando before (attacca) the soloist’s dramatic entry. Herz wastes no time in setting the fingers to work, using the entire range of the keyboard (at one perilous point, before the first extended trill and orchestral tutti, sending the right hand spiralling up three octaves and down again in arcing leaps four times in the space of two bars). A slower quasi cadenza section follows (risoluto in D minor) leading to a repeat of the piano’s first entry and, later, the return of the lyrical second subject. Among the technical challenges before the lively close are ascending semiquaver octave triplets in the right hand against semiquaver tenths in the left.
The second movement (Larghetto) in E major has the horns play a the simple Bellini-like theme, repeated by the piano, continued by the horns and again echoed by the soloist. Herz sets forth a decorative version of the same subject against pianissimo strings, before the horns return with the theme, contrasted with the soloist’s demisemiquaver repeated notes above. The graceful theme of the final rondo (marked Allegretto moderato and con dolcezza) puts one in mind of Field, though Herz soon sends the piano spinning off into a succession of dizzying triplet runs, spirited crossed-hand jumps, rapid octave leaps and, indeed, the entire gallery of ‘Herzian’ effects.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2004