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A piano concerto is a type of concerto, a solo composition in the classical music genre which is composed for a piano player, which is typically accompanied by an orchestra or other large ensemble. Piano concertos are typically virtuoso showpieces which require an advanced level of technique on the instrument. These concertos are typically written out in music notation, including sheet music for the pianist (which they typically memorize for a more virtuosic performance), orchestra parts for the orchestra members, and a full score for the conductor, who leads the orchestra in the accompaniment of the soloist.



The earliest piano concertos were composed in London. Inspired by instrument maker Johannes Zumpe, composers such as Georg Friedrich Händel and Carl Friedrich Abel began writing concertos for piano and string ensemble in about 1770.

During the Classical era, the form quickly took hold across Europe, especially Germany and Austria, becoming established with works especially by Mozart, along with lesser-known examples by Haydn, Carl Stamitz, and Joseph Wölfl. In the early Romantic period the piano concerto repertoire was added to most notably by Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Hummel, Ferdinand Ries, and John Field.

The piano concerto form survived through the 20th century into the 21st, with examples being written by Leroy Anderson, Milton Babbitt, Samuel Barber, Béla Bartók, Arthur Bliss, York Bowen, Benjamin Britten, Elliott Carter, Carlos Chávez, Aaron Copland, Peter Maxwell Davies, Emma Lou Diemer, Keith Emerson, George Gershwin, Alberto Ginastera, Philip Glass, Ferde Grofé, Aram Khachaturian, György Ligeti, Magnus Lindberg, Witold Lutosławski, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Frank Martin, Bohuslav Martinů, Nikolai Medtner, Peter Mennin, Peter Mieg, Selim Palmgren, Dora Pejačević, Willem Pijper, Francis Poulenc, Sergei Prokofiev, Behzad Ranjbaran, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Maurice Ravel, Alfred Schnittke, Arnold Schoenberg, Peter Sculthorpe, Peter Seabourne, Dmitri Shostakovich, Roger Smalley, Arthur Somervell, Igor Stravinsky, Heinrich Sutermeister, Alexander Tcherepnin, Michael Tippett, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Pancho Vladigerov, Charles Wuorinen, Yalil Guerra, and others.

The Austrian Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm during World War I, and on resuming his musical career asked a number of composers to write pieces for him that required the left hand only. The Czech Otakar Hollmann, whose right arm was injured in the war, did likewise but to a lesser degree. The results of these commissions include concertante pieces for orchestra and piano left hand by Bortkiewicz, Britten, Hindemith, Janáček, Korngold, Martinů, Prokofiev, Ravel, Franz Schmidt, Richard Strauss, and others.

Clara Wieck-Schumann, whose career as a major pianist lasted for more than 60 years, has long been recognised for her influence on the life and music of her husband, but also on her close friend Johannes Brahms and on the development of the piano as a solo instrument. She remains less well-known for her own work as a composer.

A native of White Plains, NY, Ohlsson began his piano studies at the age of 8, at the Westchester Conservatory of Music; at 13 he entered The Juilliard School, in New York City. He has been awarded first prizes in the Busoni and Montreal Piano competitions, the Gold Medal at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw (1970), the Avery Fisher Prize (1994), the University Musical Society Distinguished Artist Award in Ann Arbor, MI (1998), the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance from the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music (2014), and the Gloria Artis Gold Medal for cultural merit from the Polish Deputy Culture Minister.

Krystian Zimerman, Sir Simon Rattle, and Ludwig van Beethoven: three exceptional musicians and five great piano concertos are brought together for a landmark recording. This release is among the highlights to conclude our Beethoven anniversary celebrations.

Adès has continually developed his art via traditional compositional genres and, occasionally, stylistic mimicry. His Asyla is a symphony in all but name, though by not calling it a symphony he could deflect direct comparisons to the genre. His concertos for violin (Concentric Paths) and piano (the eight-minute Concerto Conciso from 1997 as well as In Seven Days), though acknowledged as concertos, are works with perspectives unique to themselves. In Seven Days, for example, doubles as a tone poem on the creation myth from the Book of Genesis. The overall form is far removed from the concertos of Mozart, Brahms, or even Ravel.

The first movement Allegramente opens with a statement of the theme by piano and then tutti. A march-like bridge passage leads to the more expressive second subject, first played by the piano and then taken up by the orchestra. The development section interrogates the first theme before an octave mini-cadenza leads to the recapitulation ff. There is then a solo cadenza based on the second subject, first played tremolo and then over many octaves, the piano joined first by horn and then by the full orchestra. The movement ends with a coda based on the first theme and the march.

The finale Allegro giojoso begins with a three-chord call to arms, and then a tumbling theme for piano and orchestra, which is interrupted by the blustering entry of a clarinet solo, heralding a burlesque canon. There is a good deal of argument, with frequent differences of opinion as regards key, brought to an end by the call to arms. Eventually the piano takes up a new theme in the style of a ball bouncing downstairs and develops it to a chorale climax. The tumbling material is developed, and the call to arms is heard in multiple directions leading to an impasse, a winding down of tempo, and a new slow (Grave) section in three time with a new falling theme. This leads to a precipice which the piano falls off with the original tumbling theme, and a coda lining up all the other themes for a final resolution on the call to arms.

As a pianist, Hagan's music has taught me so much about her technique, power, and expressivity. I identify her as a Black Renaissance composer, in reference to the era of rich African American artistic and intellectual expression that swept through the first half of the 20th century. Many Black Renaissance composers looked to African American folk songs to shape their classical voice. But in this concerto, I don't hear those references at all. Hagan is a Romanticist, but she experiments with the tradition too, exploring harmonic and rhythmic ideas that are distinctly hers and distinctly modern. This is what inspired me to include Hagan's piano concerto, arranged for two pianos, on my Black Renaissance Woman album and make the world premiere recording of this piece. I wanted Hagan's voice to be heard, but I never imagined that this would lead me to step even further into her world with a performance at Yale.

Q: What compelling musical ideas did Hagan present or introduce in her work, and what can the piece tell us about her playing?Ege: One word comes to mind with Hagan's concerto: bravura. There are moments where it feels like the piano is rumbling under my fingers. There is a storminess in her writing, which suggests her power as a pianist. But there are also moments in the music where the clouds clear, making way for beautiful rays of light. Gorgeous, lyrical melodies emerge, showing us that she is a highly sensitive performer. While she can give us thunder and drama, she is not a "style over substance" composer at all. There is so much emotional and intellectual depth to her writing, and she must have communicated this brilliantly as a performer.

With no shortage of fine versions of this pairing from which to choose, EMI must rely on the undoubted selling power of its Norwegian star to make this release stand out from the rest. It is certainly a worthy contender for the Top Ten when aided by the world-class Berlin Phil, a conductor who is in the Barbirolli class of adroit accompanists, superb recorded sound and a beautifully voiced piano.

The recording Kenyon picked for today's installment is a collection of three piano concertos with pianist Geza Anda and the Camerata Academica of the Salzburg Mozarteum. Kenyon talks about the first and second movements of the concert with Fred Child. We then hear the complete third movement. This a Deutsche Grammophon recording, number 447 336. 041b061a72


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