Great Compositions/Performances: Rubinstein-Chopin-Piano Concerto No.2
Frédéric Chopin Piano Concerto N.º 2 Op. 21 in F minor: Maestoso-Larghetto-Allegro Vivace-Arthur Rubinstein, Pianist
London Symphony Orchestra conducted by André Previn (HD video)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21, is a piano concerto composed by Frédéric Chopin in 1830. Chopin wrote the piece before he had finished his formal education, at around 20 years of age. It was first performed on 17 March 1830, in Warsaw, Poland, with the composer as soloist. It was the second of his piano concertos to be published (after the Piano Concerto No. 1), and so was designated as “No. 2”, even though it was written first.
The work contains the three movements typical of instrumental concertos of the period: Maestoso, Larghetto and Allegro vivace. What makes Chopin’s Op. 21 an early-Romantic concerto par excellence is the dominance of the piano part. After introducing the first movement, the orchestra cedes all responsibility for musical development to the piano; there is none of the true interplay of forces that is the mainstay of the classical concerto. Chopin’s orchestration is considered by many to be poor. Berlioz, himself a master orchestrator, was harsh in his appraisal, calling Chopin’s treatment “nothing but a cold and useless accompaniment.”
If the first movement bears the stamp of the stile brillante, the second shows the influence of Italian opera. The piano style of not only Chopin, but also his contemporaries, owes much to the bel canto operas of composers like Gioachino Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini, as well as to the leading singers of the day. The delicate melodic embroidery in the outer section is unmistakably operatic; so, too, is the arioso-like piano writing, over trembling strings, in the middle section. Chopin confessed in a letter, that the second movement had been inspired by his secret passion for a younger singer at the Warsaw Conservatory, with whom he had fallen in love and dreamed of for six months without once speaking to her. This larghetto remained one of his favourites, and excited the admiration of Schumann and Liszt.
In the third movement, there is another unmistakable influence. We hear the rhythm of the Polish mazurka, though in a brilliantly stylized setting. Once again, the piano, both in its poetic and virtuosic veins, dominate the music, with the orchestra largely relegated to the roles of cushion and punctuation mark.
Kevin Bazzan states “Chopin’s concertos – indeed, all of his works in classical forms – have always suffered from comparisons with those of Mozart and Beethoven. It is an old cliché that the larger classical forms he had studied at the Warsaw Conservatory were incompatible with his imagination. As early as 1852, writers such as Liszt remarked that Chopin “did violence to his genius every time he sought to fetter it by rules.” But he was not trying to re-interpret the classical concerto. He was working in a different tradition called stile brillante, made fashionable by such virtuoso pianist-composers as Weber and Hummel. Chopin borrowed from their example a conception of the concerto as a loosely organized showcase for a virtuoso soloist, as opposed to a more balanced, cohesive and densely argued musical drama in the classical vein.
There is no denying that Chopin’s concertos betray a youthful want of formal sophistication but, as one observer wrote, they “linger in the memory for the poetry of their detail rather than the strength of their structures.” Those details are so bold and colourful, so imaginative and personal, that the concertos have become the only large-scale early works of Chopin to retain a place in the repertoire.