Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Anda and Kubelik – Schumann and Grieg – Piano Concerti

Two piano concertos in A Minor by two composers Robert Schumann and Edvard Grieg are often placed together. Both are very popular works of romantic period, both are in the same key, both are the only finished concertos in composers’ oeuvres but this is still not enough explanation to understand why so many listeners love to connect these two concertos. Although these two composers were parted by interval of a whole generation and so these concertos were written 27 years one after another, both are highlights of the same romantic style and both are extremely attractive as philharmonic evening events.
From constructional point of view both base on the same idea. After orchestral strike, piano bursts with descending passage and this creates space for theme in orchestra. The construction idea of both concertos is generally the same. Both are nominally in three parts and both have second and third parts ordered to play attacca. And this makes them closer to the rhapsody in two parts than to Mozart or Beethoven type of three-part piano concerto. Consequently in  place of the development traditionally dominating in first parts composers show many casual themes and ideas. These two are similar in basic ideas probably because 25 years old composer followed some creative directions of Schumann whom he really admired. This is most probable cause for some construction and main idea similarities but considering the final effect, these two concertos are still quite different in style and personal character.

Anda in Schumann and Grieg's Concerti (1964)

Basic differences between these two concertos could be derived from historic circumstances and creative attitude of both composers. The Schumann’s work was the milestone of romantic concerto formal development. It was set up against traditional form by composer who was trying to restore the spirit of improvised virtuoso music and reform old idea of concerto. After quarter of the century subversive formal ideas of first romantics became common way of composing. Edvard Grieg, who was great admirer of Schumann’s work, was also determined to create national style of Norway music, which was in line with the spirit of the era. He used national Norwegian folklore, melodies and rhythms of folk dances and transform them into elements of European musical tradition. And this is probably the hallmark of Grieg’s Piano Concerto A Minor which resulted this very work became beloved piece of nineteenth and twentieth century audience.
Géza Anda plays Schumann’s Concerto with a kind of classical standoff, building emotional pressure through standard dynamics and precise articulation. Orchestra creates highly suggestive emotional support for pianist. In Grieg’s Piano Concerto artists follow the rhythmic and melodic intensity with vigor and pathos driving to more emotional or even sentimental moods. Pianist, orchestra and conductor are perfect team for this works. The set of two concertos recorded for Deutsche Grammophone Gesellschaft in 1964 was out of stock and highly priced recording, so twenty years later it has been digitally mastered and republished with new cover design in DGG „Galleria” series. Is there any better review than second edition of the work?

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