Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Chopin Piano Concerto no. 2

I was surprised to see this piece on my friend's computer - I didn't even realize Chopin had written any piano concertos.

Anyhow, my surprise continued as I began to listen to the piece. I've listened to a lot of Chopin's solo piano music, and I assumed anything for orchestra would be very similar. The orchestral introduction to this piece, which is quite lengthy (the piano doesn't play a note for almost 3 minutes), sounds very classical - the tempo is pretty straightforward, the harmony isn't that complex, and I didn't hear or feel any of the passionate tension that fills his solo music.

After some research, this makes sense - he wrote his two piano concertos very early in life, so I can assume he hadn't really developed his own style at that point.

The piano then enters and begins a section that is much more Chopin-esque. The orchestra stays beneath the pianist, and it seems as though the soloist is free to express themselves and the orchestra just follows along. Tempo rubato and extended harmonic tension characterize this period - Chopin often plays around tonal centers, causing the listener to desperately want and expect a cadence, and then continues the progression so that there's no sense of release for a while longer.

The piece continues as such for a while until the orchestra finally takes over again 7 minutes into the piece (about halfway through). There is a stormy section with a sense of mounting tension which dies down a minute later for the re-entrance of the piano. What follows is something much like the first piano solo - the orchestra plays a VERY secondary role in accompanying the piano. However, this time it doesn't last as long and the orchestra takes over again about 10 minutes and 10 seconds into the piece.

The piece ends without the pianist - the orchestra plays without the soloist for the last part of the piece, which reminds me of vocal music more than instrumental concerti.

Overall, the piece was nice, but I guess my expectation of what Chopin's music was later in his life lead me to be a little disappointed in this concerto. If I thought it was written by some earlier composer, I probably would've been very happy with it. I also didn't really pick up on consisten themes, but that's probably because it was difficult to remember the solo piano material while it was separated by such long orchestral interludes.

However, I have to give props to 'ole Freddy for composing something this great so early in his career.

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