Hyperion Records

Piano Concerto No 4 in A flat major, Op 127
Between the First Piano Concerto and the Piano Concerto No 4 in A flat major Op 127 (1835) came Kalkbrenner’s Piano Concerto No 2, Op 80, his Piano Concerto No 3, Op 107, and the Grand Concerto for two pianos, Op 125, which appeared in the same year as Op 127. As well as a conventional line-up of strings and woodwinds, two trumpets and two horns, the score of the A flat Concerto has parts for alto, tenor and bass trombones.

Unlike the D minor Concerto, Kalkbrenner unleashes his soloist after a mere twenty bars (Maestoso brillante), allowing just two bars respite before the tutti at 5'47. At 6'48 a fermata concludes in E flat major; E flat becomes D sharp (the leading note into E major) and the tempo changes to Maestoso e poco più allegro. A brilliant episode in C major leads to the recapitulation and coda. After these breathless thirteen-plus minutes, the opening of the brief Adagio (the second movement) has the undercurrent of a funeral march. Though the key signature bears the four flats of A flat major, the music is in fact in A flat minor. There is an abrupt transition to E major at 1'39 and a dramatic passage at 3'22 taking us back to the home key. After a brief Presto flourish, the movement dies away. Robert Schumann described the Concerto as ‘manufactured pathos and affected profundity’; whether it is particularly apt for this Adagio must be a moot point.

The Rondo finale in 2/4 (Allegro non troppo) suffers from a series of somewhat vapid themes, though Kalkbrenner is adept at dressing them up in sparklingly effective writing for the soloist (and, incidentally, gives his underused trombones a few moments to shine). At 5'16 he modulates ingeniously in the space of a few bars from A flat to A major (seventh) to F sharp major and a fugal octave passage in B minor. The final pages throw rapid triplet runs, octave leaps and fast repeated notes at the soloist as, with increasing excitement, the Concerto rushes to its conclusion.

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2006

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