He wrote his only piano concerto in 1883-1884 at the urging of Balakirev. Despite not being a pianist, Rimsky-Korsakov wrote:
It must be said that it sounded beautiful and proved entirely satisfactory in the sense of piano technique and style; this greatly astonished Balakirev, who found my concerto to his liking. He had by no means expected that I ... should know how to compose anything entirely pianistic.The piece is much better known in Russia and influenced other composers such as Rachmaninoff. Rimsky-Korsakov used the concertos of Franz Liszt as his model and acknowledged this by dedicating the work to Liszt. The concerto is very short, only about 15 minutes in duration, and is in three contrasting sections played without pause:
Moderato - Allegretto quasi polacca - An introduction starts off the concerto that introduces the Russian folksong that the composer used in the work. It is the only theme of the concerto and Rimsky-Korsakov uses the Lisztian technique of thematic metamorphosis on it throughout, which makes the concerto a type of theme and variation movement. This introduction is followed by a polonaise treatment given to the theme. The next section is marked:
Andante mosso - The accompaniment played by the piano is based on the first part of the folksong while the treble is based on the second part. The solo part gets more complex and erupts directly into the final section:
Allegro - The theme continues its metamorphosis as the piano part grows more brilliant with bravura passages. The concerto ends with a final flourish.