Concertino, Op. 15 for piano and orchestra
Leo Weiner – Concertino Op. 15 for piano and orchestra
(b. Budapest, 16. April 1885 – d. Budapest, 13. September 1960)
Leo Weiner was born in Budapest. At age 16 he began studies at the Budapest Academy of Music. Between 1903 and 1908 he won numerous competitions with his compositions and became known as the “Hungarian Mendelssohn.” From 1908 to his death, he taught at the Academy. Among his notable students were Fritz Reiner and Georg Solti.
His compositional style remained rooted in late Romanticism, but underwent some modifications from the late 1920s on. The two-movement Concertino for piano and orchestra appears to be on the cusp of these new directions. Possibly influenced by his contemporaries, Béla Bártok and Zoltán Kodály, Weiner began to incorporate Hungarian folk melodies into his compositions. For example, his Op.18, the Hungarian Folk Dance Suite for orchestra and piano even recognizes that feature in its title. Probably Weiner drew from the collections that Bártok and Kodály were creating from their fieldwork efforts, as there is no evidence that he actually pursued active recording and collecting of folk materials.
In the Concertino there does not appear to be actual quotations of folk tunes, but from time to time the sound effects that Weiner requires from the piano resemble those of the cimbalom. A form of that instrument had been used in various cultures and certainly in Hungary ever since the 1500s. In that country a concert cimbalom was the invention of V. Josef Schunda in 1874. He expanded the dulcimer-like instrument to a four-octave chromatic range and placed it on a pedestal. Along with expanding the tonal variety present on the earlier Hungarian forms with one end covered by felt and the other not-covered, he added pedals so that its sounds could be muted. This instrument was deliberately produced to foster a stronger Hungarian national identity and soon became extremely popular. Both Kodály and Bártok began in 1926 and 1928 respectively to use this actual cimbalom in their concert works.
As previously indicated Weiner did not use the actual instrument, but he treats the piano part occasionally in such a way that in a performance one could hear the sharp, biting attack with resonance that is typical of the cimbalom. Certainly Weiner would have regularly heard it in performances of light music played by urban bands. In this Concertino he creates cimbalom-like effects with detailed pedal markings. For example, he requires the piano’s damper pedal to be held down throughout the execution of a rapid almost four-octave E major scale just after rehearsal number 4 in the first movement. Later on, he specifically notes with the pedal markings that they must be strictly followed and a pedal change must not be made. Possibly another aspect that Weiner had noted about the cimbalom was its ability to blend particularly well with wind instruments. The wind ensemble of two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets and two bassoons play an important role in this score. In fact, they present the opening seven bars of the first movement before the pianist enters with a 17-bar cadenza. This procedure is then repeated before the strings make their first entrance at number 2, bar 48, of the score.
Overall the pianist is present throughout most of the two movements with brief interludes where the orchestral instruments and the piano dialogue about the musical materials. Both movements begin in the key of E minor but triumphantly conclude in its tonic major. The first movement is more varied in character and Weiner’s annotation of “amabile” is appropriate for its materials. The second movement introduced by the piano is much faster and dance-like in character. There are interesting cross-rhythms of two against three that become a preparation for the 6/8 time signature of the E major conclusion. At times in this movement Weiner draws on modal scales as a contrast to his frequent use of pure chromaticism. The interval of the tritone, a distinguishing characteristic of late Romanticism, plays a significant role in this movement as well.
Elaine Keillor, C.M., ARCT, PhD, Hon. Mus.Doc., 2018
For performance material please contact Universal Edition (www.universaledition.com), Vienna.
Keyboard & Orchestra
210 x 297 mm