Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 36

Lowell Liebermann

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Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

The short-score of my Second Piano Concerto was completed on December 11th, 1991 and the full orchestral score was complete exactly two months later. It was commissioned by the Steinway Foundation, and received its world premiere on June 11th, 1992, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. with pianist Stephen Hough and the National Symphony conducted by Mstislav Rostropovitch. It is dedicated to Stephen Hough, who also premiered my First Piano Concerto. The work Is scored for three flutes (third flute doubling piccolo), two oboes, two clarinets, ball clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, harp, celesta, strings, and a battery of three percussionists playing xylophone, marimba, snare drum, bass, drum, tambourine, cymbals, suspended cymbal, antique cymbal, small and large triangles, woodblock, castanets, ratchet and slapstick.

In contrast to the First Concerto - a concise and virtuosic work in three movements completed ten years earlier - the Second Concerto is a longer, more expansive and lyrical work in four movements. It is also more demanding for the soloist, both musically and technically. The movements are unified by motivic, thematic and harmonic relationships, and the work?s overall harmonic scheme develops from the motivic material itself.

The first movement, Allegro moderato, centers around B-flat and unfolds in an arc-like structure. The movement?s principal thematic material appears first in the orchestra above arpeggios in the solo piano, before being taken up by the piano itself. The massive chorale-like episode which follows is heard at key points in the movement, always functioning as transitionary material. The lyrical secondary theme is, in fact, built on a twelve-note sequence which becomes important in the development of the following movements. A restatement of the chorale leads to the development section, where the movement?s principal thematic material is juxtaposed with fugal and chorale episodes. The cadenza which follows provides the only recapitulation of the important secondary material, thereby becoming crucial to a proper structural balance in a way that most cadenzas are not. A restatement of the opening material closes the movement, with the piano and orchestra exchanging their original roles.

The second movement, Presto, centers uneasily around B-major/minor and is developed from motivic material from the first movement. It is a quixotic and pianistically treacherous Scherzo, full of abrupt meter, tempo and thematic changes. It ends with a Prestissimo coda which features the solo contrabassoon.

The third movement, Adagio, is perhaps the emotional core of the concert. The opening four-note motive in the bass-clarinet (B-flat, B-natural, A, C) summarizes the tonal scheme of the entire work. On its most basic level, the third movement is in an A-B-A form. The first ?A? section alternates episodes in the solo piano with the four-note motive above reiterated pizzicati in the orchestra, outlining a gradual chromatic rise from the keys of A-minor to C-major. The ?B? section which follows is an extended Passacaglia, whose theme, first heard fortissimo in the brass and bassoons, is derived from the first movement?s secondary material. The individual variations of the Passacaglia are transposed to the successive pitches of the Passacaglia theme itself, so that the entire movement becomes in effect one huge variation. The final ?A? section can be seen as merging with the latter part of the ?B? section, as it occurs over some of the last statements of the Passacaglia theme.

The final movement, Allegro, opens in bright, unambiguous C-major, with a rhythmic theme which serves as the refrain of a rondo-like structure. The melody of one of the third movement?s variations reappears as the secondary theme. The soloist is put through a frenetic and taxing workout before the Concerto closes in its opening key of B-flat.

The Concerto has been recorded for Hyperion with soloist Stephen Hough and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer; this recording was nominated for a Grammy in 1998 in the category of Best Classical Contemporary Composition.

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Scores & Parts

Concerto No. 2 - Soft Cover - Piano, Orchestra

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Steinway Foundation.
Composition Date 1992
Duration 00:30:00
Orchestration Solo Pno.; 3 2 3 3 - 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
Premiere 11th June 1992, Kennedy Center, Washington (DC); Stephen Hough, piano; National Symphony, Mstislav Rostropovich, conductor.

Details

I Allegro moderato
II Presto
III Adagio
IV Allegro