Monday, January 30, 2017

Rachmaninoff's odd little Piano Concerto #4 in G Minor (note the very ending)


Somewhere downstairs I have a CD of Ashkenazy and Previn playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concertos 3 and 4, and today I thought I would make some remarks about the 1968 performance by Arturo Bendetto Michaelangeli  of the Piano Concerto #4 in G Minor, Op. 40 with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London conducted by Ettore Gracis.  In fact, I think that is on an old “Blue Angel” record downstairs two that I may have gotten about the time I finished Army Basic in 1968.


The Concerto is shorter and in some ways less “pretentious” than his earlier concerti (2 and 3) and less “expansive” but in some was more eclectic.  The harmonic progressions show a little bit of influence of jazz and of impressionism, at times (especially near the opening), the music seems to “hang” around the dominant key D Major too much (it opens on the dominant).


There is a big time in G of sorts, but it is a bit truncated and sounds like it comes from 1940s “tin pan alley” a bit. The very end has 3 FF G Major chord on the piano with the descending major third interval.  That same idea dominates the “second theme” group in my own last (Third) Sonata.  But at the end I take the “hymn” theme from F# Major back to a C Major Pedal Point with a couple of “polytonal” pivot points – and a lot of unresolved dissonance – so the pianist will have to control the melodic line (playing it back, a computer connected to Sibelius can’t keep the melodic line together, only a human pianist can do that).

The finale does have the interesting harmonic effect of a middle section in D-flat, a tritone away rom the home key, an idea not found often (Elgar does this in his first symphony).

The second movement (in C) is based on the on the nursery rhyme "Three Blind Mice", a tune that was used in the opening of the first James Bond movie "Dr. No" (which I saw in the Cleveland Arcade back in 1965).

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