Franz Liszt: Concerto no. 2 for piano and orchestra R. 456 Riccardo Muti, conductor Paolo Restani, piano Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala June 27, 2004 ****************************************************** From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Franz Liszt wrote drafts for his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in A major, S.125, during his virtuoso period, in 1839 to 1840. He then put away the manuscript for a decade. When he returned to the concerto, he revised and scrutinized it repeatedly. The fourth and final period of revision ended in 1861. Liszt dedicated the work to his student Hans von Bronsart, who gave the first performance, with Liszt conducting, in Weimar on January 7, 1857.
A typical performance of this concerto lasts about 20 minutes.
This concerto is one single, long movement, divided into six sections that are connected by transformations of several themes:
Adagio sostenuto assai
The key musical idea of this concerto comes at the beginning. Quietly yet confidently, half a dozen woodwinds, no more than five at a time, play a sequence of two chords—an A major chord with a C sharp on top, then a dominant seventh on F natural. The first chord sounds very ordinary. The second opens possibilities unhinted by what preceded it. One note connects the two chords—an A. This sequence sounds colorful and strange yet inevitable and easily grasped.
This section contains a great deal of lyricism and proceeds at an unhurried pace. Among its charms is a metamorphosis of the opening theme, played by solo cello while accompanied by the piano, showing the influence of Italian bel canto on Liszt’s work.
Marziale un poco meno allegro
Yet another transformation of the gentle opening theme, this movement has also nearly always been attacked as vulgar and a betrayal of both the initial character of this theme and the concerto on the whole. American musicologist Robert Winter disagreed. He called the march “a masterstroke that demonstrates the full emotional range of thematic transformation.” The march contains the force and weight needed to reestablish the home key of A major, from which the music has been moving quite far since the concerto opened.
The second concerto, while less virtuosic than the First Piano Concerto, shows far more originality in form. In this respect it reveals a closer link to Liszt’s better known symphonic poems in both style and structure. Also, while the final version of the First Concerto could be considered a soloist’s showpiece, the Second shows Liszt attempting to confirm his compositional talent while distancing himself from his virtuoso performance origins. Liszt is less generous with technical devices for the soloist such as scales in octaves and contrary motion; instead of an overbearing virtuoso, the pianist often becomes an accompanist to woodwinds and strings. The soloist does not dominate the thematic material—in fact, after the opening, the pianist never has the theme in its original form. Instead, his role is to create, or at least seem to create, inventive variations that lead the listener through a series of thematic transformations. The various pauses and silences are not intended breaks in the musical flow but rather as transitions in the musical discourse. “Organic unity” lends structure to the entire work.