Piano Concerto No. 2 (1965)
for Piano and Orchestra
- Scherzo: Allegro – Trio: Allegretto – Scherzo
Duration: 21 min.
Recording: Toccata TOCC0368
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Arnold Rosner composed his Piano Concerto No. 2 shortly after graduating from NYU, and before receiving professional instruction in composition. As such it is an excellent representation of the roots of his musical language; it is also quite unlike any other piano concerto in the literature. Among its unusual features are its use of a scherzo as an opening movement, its lack of focus on virtuoso showmanship, and its avoidance of the sense of opposition between soloist and orchestra that characterizes the standard concerto. Instead it is dominated by melody—melody that resembles no other music, yet is readily accessible, irresistibly memorable, and instantly identifiable for those familiar with his music.
The first movement is oriented in the key of G, with a strongly mixolydian flavor, and conveys a sense of joyful exuberance. The harmonic language is almost completely consonant, with interest generated by a free use of chromatically-related triads. Although the movement begins softly, its volume level reaches considerable peaks. This opening section is followed by a relatively subdued Trio: Allegretto. The tempo presses forward as a variant of the melody leads to a huge climax. A hushed transition then leads to a re-statement of the scherzo.
The second movement begins very slowly and softly. A largely consonant melody is developed contrapuntally, and some striking major-minor dissonances are heard as it proceeds. Its serene, almost religious, character is transformed as the movement builds toward a gigantic climax with violent tone-clusters in the piano. As the climax recedes, the movement concludes as it began, in quiet serenity.
The third movement returns to the lively, high-spirited tone of the opening movement. A loose rondo design, it is based on a syncopated modal melody, in alternation with other melodies, loosely related to the first. A secondary melody of similar character follows, leading back to a variant of the initial theme in triplet figuration. The solo piano introduces a second section, with a ponderous theme in triple meter, strongly related to the main theme of the first movement. Once this theme reaches a climax, a transition leads to a modified return of the first section, which then evolves into a variant of delicately ethereal character, featuring a continuous pattern of arpeggios in the piano’s high register. A fragment of the theme highlights its major-minor features in thundering octaves and triads. As the end approaches the movement builds toward a monumental grandeur. The main theme returns briefly in a form similar to its initial statement before leading to a coda based on yet another variant of the theme, which builds once again to a grandiloquent conclusion. (Notes by Walter Simmons)