Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor Op. 25 (1833)
Felix Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847)
- Molto allegro con fuoco
- Presto. Molto allegro e vivace
Felix Mendelssohn was a child prodigy arguably surpassing Mozart in the quality of his youthful musical output. Much of this early work, including five concertos, adhered to formal classical conventions. Only when in his twenties did he explore more innovative musical structures. This is particularly evident in his three mature concertos, two for piano followed by the famous violin concerto, which together ushered in a new type of unashamedly romantic instrumental concerto.
As part of a European tour, 22-year-old Mendelssohn stayed in Munich during 1831, where he gave piano lessons to the lovely Delphine von Schauroth, the popular daughter of a baroness. Smitten, he wrote for her the bones of his first concerto in only three days, dispelling his claim that “he had difficulty writing concertos”. Mendelssohn, who was a dazzling pianist praised for his “singing fingers”, premiered the concerto in October to great acclaim. Franz Lizst later made the concerto so popular that Hector Berlioz once described a particular Érard piano that had been subjected to the work so many times that it refused to quit playing the concerto until chopped into pieces and burned!
The concerto has a sparseness of form, dispensing with much of the classical tradition. For example, at the start the pianist enters with a short cadenza, shortly after the orchestra, and both share in the exposition, rather than each presenting it sequentially. The breathless first movement is full of dazzling passagework from the piano interrupted by the more tranquil second theme. A trumpet fanfare ushers in without a break a transition to the wistful slow second movement. After building in intensity, the movement gracefully subsides until, again without a break, another trumpet fanfare opens the glittering and virtuosic finale.
Performed: 6 & 13 Sep 2015