The Piano Concerto
Part 3 – The Lesser-Known and Rarely-Performed

Ferruccio Busoni ©

Ferruccio Busoni ©

Since the invention of the piano in the 18th century, composers have placed the instrument centre stage, pitting it against the might of an orchestra to create music which ranks amongst the greatest in the repertoire.

Of course, the repertoire is so vast that it is simply not possible to programme and perform all the works within the category of “piano concerto”, yet some lesser-known and forgotten concertos definitely merit inclusion. I asked a group of concert pianists to nominate their choices in the lesser-known category and the resulting list is surprisingly long and varied, of which the following is just a small selection.

Hans Gál © Wikipedia

Hans Gál © Wikipedia

Ferruccio Busoni’s Piano Concerto is a substantial work which lasts around an hour. It calls for large forces – a choir as well as a big orchestra – which may be why it is rarely performed.

Ferruccio Busoni: Piano Concerto, Op. 39
Hans Gál’s Concerto for Piano & Orchestra was recently recorded by British pianist Sarah Beth Briggs with conductor Kenneth Woods. This large-scale concerto has everything you could wish for – dramatic interplay between soloist and orchestra, virtuosity and sweeping romantic phrases. And if you like Brahms, you’ll enjoy this.

Erik Chisholm © Wikipedia

Erik Chisholm
© Wikipedia

Erik Chisholm’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is also called the ‘Hindustani’ Concerto. This strikingly original work was composed in 1949 and uses Indian scales, ragas and rhythms to underpin its structure (hence its nickname), reflecting the composer’s world travels.

Benjamin Britten ©

Benjamin Britten ©

Benjamin Britten’s Piano Concerto in D. Despite Britten’s prowess at the piano, he wrote surprisingly little for the instrument. His Piano Concerto has considerable emotional heft combined with bravura passages for the soloist.

Benjamin Britten: Piano Concerto, Op. 13
Ernest Chausson © Wikipedia

Ernest Chausson © Wikipedia

Ernest Chausson’s Concerto for piano, violin and string quartet is warm and melodic, and uses chromatic harmonies and a passionate lyrical style typical of late nineteenth century French music. It is a very beautiful and sincere work.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold ©

Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Ernest Chausson: Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet in D Major, Op. 21
Erich Wolfgang Korngold – Piano Concerto for the left hand. Written for Paul Wittgenstein (who lost his right arm in the First World War and for whom Ravel wrote his left hand concerto), this single-movement concerto is full of harmonic imagination and contrasting moods.

Other rarely-heard piano concertos worth investigating:

Moszkowski: Piano Concerto in E major
Stanford: Piano Concerto in C minor
Vaughan Williams: Piano Concerto in C major
Medtner: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor
Dohnányi: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor
Glazunov: Piano Concerto in F minor
Dvorak: Piano Concerto in G minor
Henselt: Piano Concerto in F minor
Litolff: Concerto Symphonique No. 4

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  1. How about the Raff Piano Concerto? (Maybe his best work?) What of the 2 Stenhammar concertos? The recently recorded Godard concertos seem delightful to me! Maybe the Gernsheim concerto?

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