Genres Genres


Among his new works there is to be a Concerto in F minor, worthy of standing alongside works by the leading musicians of Europe
(Koźmian, 1829)

Chopin composed two piano concertos:

It is worth noting that the opus numbers of these works do not correspond to the chronology of their composing but result simply from the order in which they were published. Hence the occasionally misleading designations of Concerto No. 1 in E minor and No. 2 in F minor.

Chopin's concertos are generally considered to be the pinnacle achievements of the "Warsaw" period of his oeuvre (his childhood and youth until his departure from Poland in November 1830). The composer worked on them for about a year-from the autumn of 1829 to the autumn of 1830. He was aged nineteen-twenty at the time, and so these are works by a still very young composer, in which he achieved a remarkable maturity. Both concertos became widely renowned from the moment they were written, and still today they hold a firm place in the pianistic canon among the most celebrated Romantic concertos.

Chopin composed them in the style of the concert brillant, thus referring to a genre that was fashionable during his youth. Concertos of this type for piano and orchestra were written by the leading pianists of those times, including Hummel, Weber, Moscheles, Field, Kalkbrenner (to whom the E minor Concerto was dedicated), Ries and Dobrzyński. This genre was linked to the style brillant, which reigned supreme at that time among virtuoso pianists-a style characterised by great bravura, brilliance and technical display, as well as a fondness for tuneful, sentimental themes. The young Chopin adopted and developed many features of this style.

The two concertos are without doubt the most beautiful examples of the concert brillant convention. Despite the quite numerous discernible similarities to the style of Hummel, Field, Moscheles and Kalkbrenner, Chopin overshadows these composers through the depth and originality of his style. This personal, individual style of the young composer was fully manifest for the first time in the concertos, which-without ceasing to be brillant-are above all Romantic, poetic, youthfully ardent and fresh, written during the period of Fryderyk's first love for Konstancja Gładkowska.

They are three-movement works, adhering in general formal outline to the classical concerto model: the first movement is a sonata form, the second is a section in a slower tempo, and the third takes the form of a quick-moving rondo. It is the virtuosic and richly ornamented piano part that dominates, against the limited role of the orchestra.

The F minor Concerto is regarded as the more lyrical-even intimate and delicate. Particularly famous is its second movement (Larghetto) - "a temple of love and peace" (Iwaszkiewicz), seen as a musical confession of love. The Allegro vivace finale is a mazurka, including a stylisation of elements of the kujawiak and mazur.

The E minor Concerto - the later by around half a year-is a more amply proportioned work, written with great pianistic sparkle and panache. In its general conception it is similar to its predecessor. The first movement (Allegro maestoso), which exhales "an epic breath", makes use of three themes, the second movement (Romance) "is a sort of meditation on the beautiful springtime, but to moonlight" (Chopin's own words), and the Rondo finale this time constitutes a stylisation of another Polish national dance, namely the krakowiak, here treated with exceptional virtuosic bravura.

Chopin performed both his concertos in public shortly after their completion, at the Teatr Narodowy in Warsaw, in March and October 1830.

Have you finished your 3rd concerto?
(Mikołaj Chopin in a letter to his son)

The Allegro de concert, Op. 46 is one of the most rarely performed of Chopin's works, although it is, in some respects, an extremely interesting composition. Its origins are linked to plans for a third piano concerto. Chopin had such an idea in mind during the first years following his departure from Poland, but unfortunately the plans were never realised. What we do have is a free-standing, one-section composition for solo piano entitled Allegro de concert, completed and published in 1841.

It bears clear evidence of creative ideas for a work for piano and orchestra: the opening bars are reminiscent of the piano reduction from an orchestral exposition. The work as a whole combines pianistic sparkle (echoes of the style brillant, already abandoned at this time by Chopin) with richly ornamented cantilena passages. In spite of these qualities, the Allegro de concert has failed to gain greater recognition among pianists and critics, regarded as an unusual, unconvincing work. According to the testimony of one of Chopin's biographers, the composer said of this work. "This is the first piece I'll play on returning home in my first concert in a free Warsaw".

Artur Bielecki