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Not so known classical and early romantic piano concertos

757 Views 22 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  MatthewWeflen
I recently heard the new album by Ronald Brautigam playing Johann Wilhelm Wilms and really liked it. So let's talk piano concertos from that time! I also like that the first movement is long as ever with so called type 5 sonata form :)
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Hummel, Field and Ries composed a bundle of them each.
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I recently heard the new album by Ronald Brautigam playing Johann Wilhelm Wilms and really liked it. So let's talk piano concertos from that time! I also like that the first movement is long as ever with so called type 5 sonata form :)
Sounds interesting. I have some notes on early French composers of piano concertos and it will be good to compare.
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Just heard one by Hummel :)
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Probably the best known lesser known: C.M. von Weber, especially the "Konzertstück f minor" that was very influential as a model for shorter "all in one" romantic concerti. The other two concerti are a bit like highly virtuoso, a bit shallow homages to Beethoven's 1st and 5th concerti.
By Hummel esp. the b minor and a minor. AFAIR I didn't care much for Ries', Moscheles, Clementi or a bunch or earlier ones (in an anthology with Staier/Concerto Köln).
Bach's sons (often played on harpsichord) are worth checking out for early classical keyboard concerti. Schornsheim has an anthology with a few concerti by both Bach sons, pupils and other mid-18th century Germans.
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Hummel and Ries are my top picks from this period. I remember liking some concerti by J.B. Cramer, Eberl, Kuhlau, Wölfl, J.L. Dussek, Neukomm, Jadin brothers and Lessel but I don`t feel too strong for any of these to be honest. I will check Wilms later.
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As already mentioned by some, Hummel sticks out for me here as well. His A minor concerto is one of my favourite piano concertos and instead of the usually recommended Hough/Thomson I prefer an HIP performance with Alessandro Commellato on the fortepiano with Solemente Naturali conducted by Didier Talpain. The energy & passion of that performance is unrivalled, and the orchestra plays wonderfully and especially the period horns sound amazing. It’s the only HIP performance where I prefer it over the recordings with modern orchestra
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Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1752-1814)
Piano Concerto in G minor (1777)
Eckart Sellheim, piano Capella Coloniensis / Ulf Björlin
Of course, CPE Bach is a very familiar name but I wonder how many of us are familiar with his keyboard concertos (BIS issued some 20 CDs of them) and nearly all are really worth getting to know. There is so much magic in them and we can also hear the transition from the Baroque to the Classical - some works have both feet in one of these "camps" but in others he seems to have one foot in each.
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There are some 50 keyboard concerti by CPE Bach and I basically gave up on getting them all. I think a very good start is the set of 6 Wq 43 and the two? double concerti.
Lessel - Piano Concerto in C major, Op. 14 (1801)
Dobrzyński - Piano Concerto in A-flat major, Op. 2 (1824)
Krogulski - Piano Concerto No. 1 in E major (1830)
The Hyperion label, which brought us the stellar ongoing series The Romantic Piano Concerto (of which recently released disc 85 will soon be added to my collection), The Romantic Violin Concerto (22 discs to date), and The Romantic Cello Concerto (7 discs to date), has more recently begun a new series titled The Classical Piano Concerto. Pianist/conductor Howard Shelley leads the charge for that series, though not too quickly, apparently. Currently there are 8 volumes available, featuring works by Dussek, Steibelt, Clementi, Kozeluch, Cramer, and W.A.Mozart's son Franz Xaver. As the ads say: "the ‘Classical Piano Concerto’ focuses on the lesser-known concertos from the dawn of the genre. Between about 1770 and 1820 — the high classical period dominated by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven ..." Those interested in piano concerti of that era might want to look into these discs.

I have so far not purchased a single one of the Classical Piano Concerto series. Having just recently added the 85th volume of the Romantic Piano Concerto series to my collection (I have the entire set) and having also invested in the complete Hyperion Romantic Violin and Romantic Cello sets, which, thankfully, have not gone to the lengths of The Romantic Piano Concerto, yet, I held off jumping into another deep lake. Besides, I am less a fan of "the classical era" than I am of "the Romantic period", and I already have quite a few of the stellar achievements in piano concertos written between 1770 and 1820, so, barring any desire to add another disc library room onto my house, I decided to hold off on that newest Hyperion series. But that shouldn't stop you from investing in it.

It's good to know that record labels, musicians, conductors and orchestras are willing to extend their talents into lesser known music, outing it for public audition. The least we who love music can do is show some support for these brave folk who tread the less commercially successful back alleys of musical production. After all, the various Hyperion series, though not totally successful perhaps, have unearthed several fine gems well worth hearing -- music that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, and unheard. Perhaps some one of you out there will pick up the slack where I've left off and begin a collection of The Classical Piano Concerto. Hey -- it will take years to get up to disc 85 in that collection, so you should have time to put away a few bucks of spare change for the ride. In the meantime, I'll keep adding to those three series I have already invested in, but it's encouraging to me, at least, to realize that I am not yet fully demented by the insanity of this musical hobby of collecting classical recordings. I still can breathe. And, I like the current dimensions of my house as it now stands.
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Of course, CPE Bach is a very familiar name but I wonder how many of us are familiar with his keyboard concertos (BIS issued some 20 CDs of them) and nearly all are really worth getting to know. There is so much magic in them and we can also hear the transition from the Baroque to the Classical - some works have both feet in one of these "camps" but in others he seems to have one foot in each.
I think I heard each of them at least once, and still listen to them occasionally while I do chores. If I were to pick one to recommend to anyone, it would be the D minor, Wq 22. While Wq. 6, 7, 15, 17, 23, 26 (and the ones transcribed as cello cocnertos), 34 (with its emphasis on the galant style), etc, are melodically memorable. The slow movements of Wq. 20, 27 moody harmonically. But these days I find Bach a bit too rhythmically static, especially in the 8-9 minute long concerto slow movements (compared to his elderly contemporary Richter (1709-1789)).
Joseph Wölfl deserves further mention for his half dozen piano concertos written in the first decade of the 19th Century. Wölfl was a student of Leopold Mozart and Michael Haydn and Beethoven’s pianistic rival. In 1798 he took part in a musical betting competition against Beethoven. Wölfl won the competition with Beethoven taking 2nd place. Wolfgang Mozart valued Wölfl’s skills highly enough to recommend the eighteen year old as a piano teacher to Prince Michael Kleofas Ogiński at the court in Warsaw. He was highly esteemed in Paris at 18 and regarded as one of the most fascinating musicians of his time. Wölfl was a piano virtuoso and performed as such but he also produced an immense list of over 600 works ranging from operas and ballets to symphonies and chamber-music. This was something new and one of the reasons that made him so exceptional. In this respect Wölfl stands between the great composers of the 18th beginning 19th century and the piano virtuosi of the 19th century who composed mainly for the piano.

Wölfl’s Piano Concerto no. 3 in F major, op. 32 is a good example of his art. It opens with a delightfully virtuosic allegro in triple time, followed by a lovely calm andante in C which becomes agitated as it encounters a short period in the minor, before the opening calm returns, with filigree fioriture that now decorates the melody, looking forward to Chopin. The presto finale is a set of variations, on a theme that immediately suggests a village dance with a distinctly Austro-Hungarian, even Russian flavor. Wölfl’s music is high entertainment which tends to have an uplifting feel about it, a quality which is always in demand.

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Btw, Reichardt's G minor, which I posted in #8 is noteworthy for reflecting his musical philosophy of continuity and unity (note that how there are no "breaks" between the movements of the concerto, like how his singspiel Erwin und Elmire has no "breaks".
"In two melodramas from the 1770s, Reichardt developed an incipient form of leitmotiv, devising musical expressions of moods and ideas that recurred whenever justified by the drama rather than according to considerations of musical form. Long before Wagner, he described the process in his widely circulated Musikalisches Kunstmagazin (1782). The Greek tragedies Prokris und Cephalus and Ino initially appealed to him as subjects for melodramas because they allowed him to create an individual musical theme "for each passion, for each shading of passion," and in so doing, "to bring more unity to the whole." Both in practice and in theory, Reichardt was an important precedent for Wagner, who also credited his motivic technique for fostering a musical unity ..." (Motives for Allusion)


Joseph Anton Steffan (1726 - 1797)
This one starts with a long moody slow introduction.-
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Just heard one by Hummel :)
I listened to Hummel's Piano Concerto No. 2 and liked it! All except for the opening orchestral tutti that was unengaging. Once the piano had entered smoothly, all was well. No longer need I think of Hummel as a composer mainly to be brought in for thin areas of the repertoire -- such as septets.
I listened to Hummel's Piano Concerto No. 2 and liked it! All except for the opening orchestral tutti that was unengaging. Once the piano had entered smoothly, all was well. No longer need I think of Hummel as a composer mainly to be brought in for thin areas of the repertoire -- such as septets.
Interesting, the opening orchestral tutti is one of my absolute favourite opening tutti’s of any concerto. Maybe this recording will change your mind?

For 2 days now, I've heard several John Field concertos. I'm quite happy discovering new music in an old "field" :)
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...also Czerny d-minor and Moscheles no. 6 were quite nice :) I think it could be an all-consuming-job to listen and analyze piano concertos. I usually have to play a piece to really see what's going on, but I still like to just be aware of the music. It's so easy to let your mind wander along.
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