Hyperion Records

Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor, Op 56
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The concerto falls into the normal three-movement pattern (fast–slow–fast), with the first movement Allegro being the most substantial and offering a rich contrast between the principal statement together with its subsidiary themes, and the extended lyrical second subject. The technical demands on the pianist are considerable and ample evidence of Scharwenka’s own remarkable abilities as a performer, although he was at the same time renowned for his fine sense of judgement and musicianship, and consequently the virtuosic piano writing never seems superfluous.

The second movement, Adagio, owes more than a little to Chopin, especially in the first theme which is given unaccompanied to the piano after a short introduction from the strings of the orchestra. However, as the movement develops, so Scharwenka finds his own identity, and after building several climaxes closes with an air of tranquillity, leaving us perfectly poised for the finale. Scharwenka’s Polish origins are echoed in the main subject of the third movement, Allegro non troppo, which is distinctly Eastern European, perhaps also with a slightly Yiddish colouring, although there is no evidence to suggest that Scharwenka had any Jewish family connections. The movement basically follows a rondo format, with the coda reintroducing material from the first movement, bringing the concerto to a brilliant conclusion in the affirmative key of C major.

from notes by Martin Eastick © 2003

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