Grieg’s only piano concerto is not a grand, sophisticated piece and far from being technically challenging, but it’s masterfully crafted (he made hundreds of edits after its premier), refreshingly lyrical, and rich in folk music spirit of the composer’s homeland, which is the very reason of its beauty and appeal.
1. Allegro con brio
The concerto opens with a powerful timpani roll leading to a flourish of short but forceful chords on the piano:
The solo piano then leads to the statement of main theme, part A:
Part B played by woodwinds, sounding like a natural lyrical echo to part A:
The contrasting 2nd theme is first played by cello:
which also has a part B:
The Adagio is on a slow 3/8 time, starting with the strings playing the gentle and sweet first theme:
The refreshing 2nd theme is played by solo piano on higher register; with a series of sparkling notes rolling gradually down, it’s not hard to imagine yourself out there looking down at the grand natural beauty of Norwegian landscape:
When the first theme is back, it becomes much emotionally charged on the solo piano:
3. Allegro moderato molto e marcato – Quasi presto – Andante maestoso
The final movement opens with a dance like theme full of energy and uplifting spirit; it seems to also have two parts, part A:
Part B takes it rhythmically a bit slower:
The dance theme is elaborated and pushed to a climax, which quiets down almost entirely, before the lyrical 2nd theme played out by the solo flute:
The melody is very much folk-song like, pastoral and filled with affection, which seems just fit for the composer to express his deep love to his home country. Such sentiment is deepened when the theme is repeated by the piano and orchestra.
After recapitulation of theme 1, it enters into a variation that turns the theme into a faster 3/4 time rhythm, which is the Quasi presto:
The piece then builds on the momentum and ends by a passionate rendition of theme 2 by the whole orchestra.