Thursday, June 26, 2014

Weber - Konzertstück In F Minor For Piano And Orchestra

Carl Maria von Weber's works for the stage are considered to be the first German nationalist operas and as such they influenced composers of the next generation, especially in Germany. His early development of the lietmotif influenced Wagner to use the technique also. His orchestrations were studied by Berlioz and used them for examples in his Treatise On Instrumentation .   Liszt, Mendelssohn and Chopin were influenced by his works for piano and orchestra, and 20th century composer Igor Stravinsky admitted that Weber was a model for his Cappriccio For Piano And Orchestra, written over 100 years after Weber's death.

The Konzertstück In F Minor was especially influential, not only for Weber's use of the orchestra, musical content and form (it is in 4 sections played without break), but for its extra-musical content. Weber had composed two piano concertos and when he had begun writing his third he wrote the following in a letter to music critic Johann Rochlitz:
I have an F minor piano concerto planned. But as concertos in the minor without definite, evocative ideas seldom work with the public, I have instinctively inserted into the whole thing a kind of story whose thread will connect and define its character - moreover, one so detailed and at the same time dramatic that I found myself obliged to give it the following headings: Allegro, Parting. Adagio, Lament. Finale, Profoundest misery, consolation, reunion, jubilation.
 Weber was taken up with work on other compositions and didn't get back to the third concerto, which he had renamed Konzertstück, until 1821. In fact, on the morning of the premiere of his opera Der Freischütz he finished the  Konzertstück. It was premiered a week later to (in Weber's words) "monstrous acclaim", and the work has been a popular concert piece ever since.

Weber himself played the piece for his wife and Julius Benedict, a German composer and conductor. According to Benedict the composer gave a running commentary as he played the piece, which shall be quoted below:

Larghetto affetuoso -  Beginning in F minor, the sad and reflective music has a story Weber described as he played :
A lady sits alone on her balcony, gazing off in the distance. Her knight has gone on a Crusade to the Holy Land. Years have passed, battles have been fought; is he still alive? Will she ever see him again?

Allegro passionato -  In a state of panic (and still in the key of F minor), Weber described her state of mind:
Her excited imagination summons a vision of her noble husband lying wounded and forsaken on the battlefield. Could she not fly to his side and die with him? She falls back, unconscious. Then from the distance comes the sound of a trumpet (represented by a solo bassoon). There in the forest something flashes in the sunlight as it comes nearer and nearer.

Tempo di marcia -  The music has now changed to C major in a wave of celebration:
Knights and squires, with the Crusaders' cross and banners waving, are acclaimed by the crowd. And there her husband is among them! She sinks into his arms (represented by an octave glissando on the keyboard)

Presto giocoso - The solo piano erupts in rapid scales and figures, the music modulates to F major as the soloist plays brilliant passages, including two more grand glissandos as Weber concluded his story:
Happiness without end! The woods and waves sing a song of love, while a thousand voices proclaim its victory.

Weber's  Konzertstück is the quintessential early Romantic work for piano and orchestra. It is no surprise that Liszt played it many times in his career and even wrote his own version of the piano part. Liszt (as well as other composers) used the connected movement form of it for their own works for piano with and without orchestra.

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