Accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the French classical pianist Hélène Grimaud plays Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major, a piano concerto in three movements and is heavily influenced by jazz, which the French composer had encountered on a concert tour of the United States in 1928. Conductor: Vladimir Jurowski. Recorded in 2009.
Ravel’s Piano Concerto
The Piano Concerto in G major was a long time in the making. Ravel started thinking about it in 1928 (cf. his visit to Oxford) after his return from America; he took it up again in 1929, but then broke off to write the Piano Concerto for the left hand, then continued within 1930, and completed it in 1931.
For a long time, Ravel declared his intention to perform the work himself and to undertake a world tour with it. But in recognition of his diminishing health and his technical limitations as a pianist, he handed over the role of the soloist to Marguerite Long (13 November 1874 – 13 February 1966), the French pianist and teacher, to whom the work is dedicated. Together they gave the first performance at the Salle Pleyel in Paris on 14 January 1932.
The concerto observes a traditional 3-movement form, albeit with great contrasts of style between movements and indeed within them.
- Allegramente The first movement opens with a single whip-crack, and what follows can be described as a blend of the Basque and Spanish sounds of Ravel’s youth and the newer jazz styles he had become so fond of. Like many other concerti, the opening movement is written in the standard sonata-allegro form, but with considerably more emphasis placed on the exposition.
- Adagio assai In stark contrast to the preceding movement, the second movement is a tranquil subject of Mozartian serenity written in ternary form (sometimes called song form, it is a three-part musical form where the first section (A) is repeated after the second section (B) ends. It is usually schematized as A–B–A).
- Presto The third movement recalls the intensity of the first with its quick melodies and difficult passage-work. Possibly due to its short length, the third movement is often repeated by the orchestra and soloist as an “encore” after the concerto.
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