Movement 1: Andantino – Recitativo del pianoforte
Movement 2: Allegro – Tempo primo
Movement 3: Andante
Movement 4: Tempo primo – Allegro come prima
Movement 5: Allegro vivace – Più mosso
For the first draft, Liszt wrote out a piano score on two staves with plenty of blank space above and below for revisions. The next stage was an orchestral score without a piano part, and the piano score from the first stage was modified such that it served as the missing piano part to the orchestral score. For substantial revisions, Liszt cancelled the passage in both scores, and wrote out separate pages with all parts, piano and orchestra. The manuscripts were then given to a copyist, who integrated them and returned a fair copy to Liszt for final corrections, revisions, and the addition of articulation and dynamic markings. This procedure can be seen in the various surviving scores for the first and second piano concertos.
(Clearly, then, this explains the many scores of much of Liszt’s concertante and orchestral œuvre found in copyists’ hands, and gives the lie to the notion that Raff, Conradi, or any other amanuensis, was in any way responsible for Liszt’s orchestration.) In 1836 Liszt asked his mother to send him copies of some of his earliest published compositions: two sets of Variations, the Allegro & Rondo di bravura and the early set of Études (Opp 1, 2, 4 and 6—all of which are recorded in Volume 26). These last became the basis of the Douze Grandes études, and three of the other works provided material for the present concerto. Liszt spoke of having three concertos ready at the end of 1839. Two are those we know well, although not nearly in their final form, the other is this concerto, which Liszt never revised for publication and performance. There remain passages where the original short score piano part has been crossed out, or where it does not fit the final orchestral score, or where it is left doubling the orchestra, and a discreet amount of reorganizing of the texture seemed necessary to the present writer (whose article on the subject and facsimile of all the suggested text can be consulted in the Liszt Society Journal, 1993) in order to extract a suitable piano part from its orchestral surroundings.
The concerto is in a form dear to Liszt: a concert Allegro with interpolated slow movement and a coda in the character of a scherzo, with many recitative-like musings at the structural divisions. The opening presents the principal theme—derived from the Allegro di bravura, but in the guise of an introduction with cadenzas. The reappearance of the orchestra indicates the movement proper, and a triplet motif borrowed from the Rondo di bravura leads to the full statement of the principal theme in E flat minor (and despite the variety of key signatures, this concerto really is in E flat minor rather than major). The music makes its way to D major and a martial second theme which never reappears, and thence to a development section which breaks off with a short cadenza and leads to the slow movement in G flat major, whose theme is adapted from the one which Liszt had first composed for his Opus 1 Variations. The development resumes in F sharp minor and the shortened recapitulation of the first theme follows. The coda, finally in E flat major, is a scherzando transformation of the first theme with interpolated references to the slow movement.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1998