Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Andantino sostenuto
Movement 3: Finale: Allegro (con fuoco ed appassionato)
The first movement (Allegro moderato) might seem like a heady mixture of Hummel, Chopin, Moscheles, Mendelssohn and Kalkbrenner. But no. It is all and none of these. This is Herz, King of the Parisian school of elegance and dexterity, writing to wow the public with sensational acrobatics and graceful melodies—and making the most of the newly extended keyboard. The dominating key is D minor though in the course of its nearly fifteen minutes duration we take in F major (for the first statement of its lovely second subject), A flat major, F minor (for the unexpected central cantabile, con dolore section), G sharp minor, B flat major (briefly) and finally D major. The tempo and character of the music change just as frequently.
Herz follows this with a theme of striking simplicity for his Andantino sostenuto (to be played cantabile con amore), a lullaby reminiscent of some Scottish air. It is brutally interrupted by the piano’s outburst of fortissimo double octaves before a fermata and a transition from F major to D major for the opening theme again, this time decorated with the piano’s leggiero pianissimo demisemiquavers. The modulation to the home key is preceded by a left-hand octave tremolo using the bottom C of the keyboard—three octaves below middle C—a rarity for this period. The theme’s final treatment has the upper part of the right hand playing the melody, the lower part simultaneously playing a trill, while the left hand crosses over to play arpeggiated figures as high as top F (three octaves above middle C).
The route-map of the concerto’s Allegro finale (con fuoco ed appassionato) is as surprising as it is original, a potpourri that can hardly fail to bring a smile to the lips. The strident octave first subject in D minor is followed by a fugal section for strings only leading to a delightful third subject in A major (dolce e scherzando) to be played lusingando (caressingly). What next? A march of course!—orchestra only, brillante e sonore, triangle and percussion to the fore, as if straight out of a Meyerbeer opera. The soloist leads us thrillingly back to the first subject, then to a repeat of the fugue (this time in F sharp minor and with the piano’s contribution) and a return to the scherzando subject (in D major) which, after a brilliant transition passage, leads to the coda using the march again.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2006