Fryderyk (Frédéric) Chopin – IInd (Ist) Piano Concerto in F minor, Op. 21 (1829/30)
Version for Piano & String Quintet /first print
(b. Zelazowa near Warsaw, 1 March (22 February) 1810 — d. Paris, 17 October 1949)
I – Maestoso (p.1)
II – Larghetto (p.58)
III – Allegro vivace (p.78)
Chopin’s two piano concertos are the crowning glory of his years in Poland. They were preceded by three works with orchestral accompaniment – Variations on “Là ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” (op. 2, 1827-28), Krakowiak: Grand Rondeau de concert (op. 14, 1828), and Grande Fantaisie sur des airs polonais (op. 13, 1829) – and followed, after his emigration, by the orchestration of his Grande Polonaise brillante précédé d’un Andante spianato (op. 22). Thereafter he wrote exclusively for solo piano, as befitted not only his distinctive intimacy of expression but his fear and aversion toward playing in public: “I’m unsuited for giving concerts, for audiences intimidate me; they asphyxiate me with their breath and paralyze me with their inquiring gaze.”
The first concerto to be written was the work in F-minor, though it was subsequently called the Second owing to its later appearance in print. Chopin began work on it toward the end of 1829, completed it in fairly short order, and performed it in Warsaw on 7 February 1830 in an exclusive private performance with a small orchestra conducted by Karol Kurpinski. He then gave the piece its first public hearing in Warsaw’s National Theater on 17 March 1830, at the same time playing his Fantaisie sur des airs polonaise. Five days later he mounted a repeat performance of the concerto, this time coupled with the Krakowiak instead of the Fantaisie.
By then Chopin was already working on his second concerto, in E minor, which has been called the First ever since its initial publication. He had long decided to leave Poland. Writing to Titus Wojciechowski on 18 September 1830, he reported: “Last Wednesday I rehearsed my concerto with the quartet. But I was not overly satisfied with it. […] I’ll tell you next week how it turns out with orchestra, for I’ll give it a rehearsal this coming Wednesday. Tomorrow I’ll rehearse it again with the quartet. After the rehearsal I’ll take off – but where? For I feel drawn to nowhere in particular.”
The première of the Second Concerto was given in Warsaw on 11 October 1830, with Chopin at the piano and the orchestra conducted by Carlo Soliva. The following day he reported on the event to Wojciechowski: “Then came my moment of glory with the E-minor Allegro, which seemed simply to flow from my fingers at the Streicher piano. The applause was rapturous. […] If Soliva hadn’t taken my scores home, studied them, and conducted so that I couldn’t possibly run away head over heels, I can’t imagine how it would have turned out yesterday.”
It was to be Chopin’s last public appearance in his native Poland, which he left forever a short while later on 2 November. After traveling first to Vienna, he settled to Paris in mid-1831, where the shy and retiring pianist achieved the worldwide fame that has lasted to the present day.
Bronislaw von Pozniak (1877-1951), writing in his wonderful Chopin: Praktische Anweisungen für das Studium der Chopin-Werke (Halle, 1949), has this to say about the two concertos: “In both works the composer, though not yet twenty years old, reached heights that have elevated them to standard items of the pianists’ repertoire. Nevertheless, viewed with a cool and unprejudiced eye, neither is ideal, for the handling of the orchestra leaves much to be desired. Many a composer has later tried to write a better accompaniment for the two concertos; others have attempted to recast the original orchestral writing. Their efforts have been in vain: the original versions were and remain the only ones possible. And that in turn is one of those strange secrets for which humanity will never find an answer. […] The decision as to which concerto to prefer must remain a matter of personal taste. Interestingly, the earlier F-minor piece is far more dramatic than its E-minor successor, the first to appear in print.”
The E-minor Concerto was first published in 1833 as op. 11 in an edition with solo part and orchestral material. The F-minor work appeared in the same format as op. 21 in 1836.
The Polish musicologist Ferdynand Hoesick advanced the theory that both concertos were orchestrated by Ignacy Feliks Dobrzynski, adding that it is “not known whether we are dealing with a half-autograph, in which Chopin wrote the piano part and Dobrzynski the orchestral parts […], or whether Dobrzynski merely made additions to a complete autograph score.” As the autograph score is no longer extant, his thesis can not longer be verified. But we know that Chopin played the E-minor Concerto with a string quartet accompaniment – a procedure equally conceivable for its F-minor counterpart. This is a wholly legitimate mode of performance from which our arrangement departs merely by expanding the quartet into a quintet by adding a double bass, thereby reaching the ambitus of the original orchestral writing.
Unlike several arrangers before him, Ilan Rogoff has not attempted to produce a new ar-rangement per se, but fastidiously transferred the orchestral writing to the string parts. No-thing has been added to the piano part and nothing removed from the string writing of the original. The piano part appears in a newly revised scholarly-critical urtext edition equally well-suited for performance with a full orchestra. It is to be hoped, however, that our volume will further disseminate the delightful chamber-music version with strings.
Translation: Bradford Robinson, 2010
For performance material please contact the publisher Musikproduktion Höflich, München (www.musikmph.de).