1837: Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor

SATURDAY, December 12, 2020 – 8:40 AM

(This 2nd concerto is overshadowed by the more popular and “catchy” 1st concerto, but I think it may actually be the best of the two. I don’t know why I have not heard it earlier.)

Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor, age 28

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

Rudolf Serkin, 1959

I picked Serkin again because of his love for these concertos, and also out of interest in the history of early stereo recordings in the last 50s. The only minus for me is the humming. I very much wish teachers would stamp that out while young pianists are developing, because later it becomes a horrible habit that is never cured.

Julius Jeongwon Kim

This is nice for watching.

Murray Perahia

His recording is also very highly regarded.

This was difficult for Mendelssohn

Part of the problem might be that Mendelssohn had such a huge success as a teenager, and at that age his music seemed to flow like water. I think Mendelssohn was the most frightening of all the musical prodigies, but perhaps all those teenage “home runs” made things more difficult for him as he grew older.

He wrote:

“[but I would like to write a concerto for England, and I can’t manage it. I want to know why this is so difficult for me.”

Work on the piece lasted from April through to early September 1837, and for Mendelssohn that was a very long time because he usually produced music so effortlessly.

Critical reception

Robert Schumann, writing in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, offered a frank assessment of the piece, observing:

This concerto, to be sure, will offer virtuosos little in which to show off their monstrous dexterity. Mendelssohn gives them almost nothing to do that they have not already done a hundred times before.

There is a lot more from Schumann, but his assessment is now considered to have been very wrong.


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