Monday, March 31, 2014

Reinecke - Piano Concerto No. 1 In F-sharp Minor

There is hardly a musician of the 19th century who was the pupil of so many famous musicians as well as the teacher of so many famous musicians as Carl Reinecke. He was born in Germany in 1824 and studied withLiszt, Schumann and Mendelssohn. Some of the students he taught as a teacher were Edvard Grieg, Isaac Albéniz, Max Bruch, Felix Weingartner and many others. In his teen years he was an orchestral violinist as well as pianist.

Reinecke held many positions in various conservatories in Germany and in 1860 was appointed music director of the Gewandhaus Orchestra concerts in Leipzig and was professor of piano and composition at the Conservatorium until 1895. After his retirement from directorship of the orchestra in 1895  and from the Conservatorium in 1902 he concentrated on composition and at the time of his death in 1910 his opus numbers ran to almost three hundred pieces.

By most accounts he appears to have been a genial man as well as belonging to the more conservative group of composers in the middle and late 19th century. He admired Liszt's piano playing abilities, but disregarded Liszt's compositions as well as Wagner's.  He was also a virtuoso pianist and gave many recitals in his life.

He completed the Piano Concerto No. 1 In F-sharp Minor in 1867 and the concerto was very popular for many years, but like much of Reinecke's music it was almost forgotten. It is in 3 movements:

I. Allegro -  The first movement begins with a short introduction before the strings sound out the first impassioned theme. The full orchestra enters and the theme is played until the solo piano joins in as the theme is repeated and expanded upon. The strings segue to the second theme and after a few bars of it the piano enters and this theme is expanded upon. The development section begins as the dotted rhythm of the first theme returns in the strings. The piano takes up a different section of the first theme and develops it over the accompaniment of the winds. The solo piano returns with the dotted rhythm of the first theme and develops it, with the orchestra adding to the texture. The second theme returns in the orchestra as the piano throws out an accompaniment in octaves. There is a slight pause and the cadenza for soloist comments on both themes until a chain of trills in both hands which leads to a change to a 12/8  time signature and an increase in tempo molto più animato as the first movement races to its close.

II. Adagio, ma non troppo -  This movement is written in the key of D-flat major (which is the enharmonic equivalent of C-sharp major). A gentle D-flat major chord is played by the orchestra with a violin solo followed by a D-flat minor chord. This musical sigh is repeated after which the theme proceeds to the entrance of the piano that plays an accompaniment to the sigh. A second theme is played by the piano and echoed by the solo violin. The solo violin is joined by a solo cello as the piano plays a rippling accompaniment. The opening sighing theme is then played on the piano with a light accompaniment. The cello and violin continue their duet until the final chord.

III. Allegro con brio - The dominant theme of this movement is in F-sharp major and first played by the solo piano:


This theme appears throughout the movement, sandwiched between various episodes. The concerto comes to an end in the major mode.

Reinecke remained a musical conservative all of his life. He himself said that his compositional ideal was found in the works of Mendelssohn. He lived a long life of dedication to music making and music instruction. He died in 1910 at the age of 85.

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