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Piano Concerto No 5 in F minor, Op 180
Herz may fall back on his bag of pianistic tricks, but he is nothing if not unpredictable in the way in which he chooses to use them. In the even briefer Piano Concerto No 5 in F minor Op 180 (1854) the opening of the first movement (Allegro moderato), far from being an attention-grabbing exposition, is a hesitant, rhapsodic prelude. The soloist’s initial theme has a close affinity with that of the last movement (could it be that Herz wrote the finale first?). We are almost halfway through the movement when another of the composer’s heartfelt melodies appears, leading to a beguiling scherzo subject, soon abandoned for a curt transformation of the expressive melody into the material for the fiery coda.

Clarinets, trumpets, trombones and kettle drum are silent for the Andantino that follows, the stage set by a chorus for horns and bassoon. The piano’s theme is an enchanting operatic cantilena (or so it sounds) which moves from its home key of E major to a central section in C sharp minor before returning for the cantilena to be taken up by a solo cello and flute in unison. All appears to be heading towards a serene conclusion. The final two bars disabuse the dreamy listener. Herz clearly had a sense of humour.

The finale (Allegro agitato) is a lively rondo in 6/8 which has a graceful second theme in the same metre but in the relative major. This is developed with some brilliant passagework (the trombones are put to work) before the main theme again, and a repeat of the second subject, now in F major. Without a pause, this tune is played in 2/4. Herz is surely going to conclude proceedings in this way. But no. He reverts back to 6/8 and, still in F major, uses the Rondo theme for a sprint to the finish.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2006

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