1831: Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor

FRIDAY, December 4, 2020 – 8:40 AM

(This is a very “light” piano concerto, meaning easy to listen to, very entertaining, very effective, very well written and rather short. There are so many good recordings, it’s very hard to pick just one.)

Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, age 22


  • 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons
  • 2 horns, 2 trumpets
  • timpani
  • strings

Stephen Hough

This guy is a “pianist’s pianist”, meaning he just plays without mannerisms, and for me it is a pleasure to watch him because of a lack of “showbiz”. I also really like the ensemble. The camera work is good, and the recorded sound is excellent.

Rudolf Serkin, 1959

What is it about this performance? First of all, he was known to champion this piece, so he get’s bonus points for that. Second, he was in general a very serious pianist revered for his Beethoven recordings, so this has special interest for me. There is something really knife-like about the accents, and it’s really clean playing. It’s not live, but there is no coughing, which is a blessing. He does hum a bit, like Glenn Gould, but I can excuse that because the playing is so musical. Then when you consider the year, right before 1960, the recorded sound is quite amazing.

1st movement

The piano enters after only a few bars of orchestral introduction.The rest of the movement is fairly typical of concertos in its use of a modified sonata form. The ending is unusual in that it goes right into the 2nd movement.

2nd Movement

At the end of the 1st movement there is a transition that leads to a brass fanfare, and that actually goes into the beginning of the slow movement in E major. There is a middle section in B major, then a return to E major.

3rd movement

Another E major chord cadences to a fanfare in A minor, then it settles into G major for very fast final movement.

Written quickly

Mendelssohn said:

“I wrote it in but a few days and almost carelessly.”

The concerto was extremely popular

Clara Schumann and Franz Liszt were both hugely supportive of this concerto.

Part of a hugely successful  part of his life

It was written around he same time as his fourth symphony (“Italian”), and premiered in Munich in October 1831. He performed the piece himself at the premiere, which also included performances of his Symphony No. 1 and the Overture from Midsummer Night’s Dream.

2 thoughts on “1831: Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor

  1. Watching the video affords a great opportunity to marvel at the finger dexterity needed to play this piece.

    I especially enjoyed the last movement which was fast, furious, and fun.

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