Stephen Speicher

Piano Concerto No. 4

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16 posts in this topic

I've only recently (4 months ago) started a serious exploration of Classical-Music, and so far have only been focusing on Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky; but out of everything I've listened to so far, Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No.4 towers above the rest.

The entire piece is just simply amazing: I love the way the first measure opens with a powerful, triumphant sound and ends on beautiful piano flourishes that sound remarkably like the strumming of a harp.

The second measure isn't quite as exciting to me, but the melody it repeats and builds on is just absolutely gorgeous, especially at about two minutes in when the strings section takes over.

But the high point of this work for me has to be in the third measure, from about 1:53-3:31: if a piano were capable of speaking, it would be saying "The World is a beautiful and benevolent place" during this stretch of music. The way the melody rises with the horn (I'm guessing it is a French Horn?) in such a serene, swaying manner feels like a leaf floating skywards on a soft up-draft of warm air, and at its apex the piano enters as it flutters gently back down... :(

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Carlos,

Is there a particular recording you've been listening to?

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Carlos,

Is there a particular recording you've been listening to?

I'm pretty sure it was recorded by The Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

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My least favorite of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos, so I give it a 7. Not bad, but even having heard it ten or twenty times at least, I can't remember what it sounds like. I usually hear it because it may be paired on a CD with another Piano Concerto I like better. I don't turn it off, but I never play it specifically to hear the #4.

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I also gave it a 9, though it has moments of grandeur which the other concertos don't. My favorite is also the 3rd, for its energetic passion.

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Carlos, if you haven't yet heard Tchaikovsky's 2nd Piano Concerto you might check it out. It is quite a happy piece of music.

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The entire piece is just simply amazing: I love the way the first measure opens with a powerful, triumphant sound and ends on beautiful piano flourishes that sound remarkably like the strumming of a harp.

The second measure isn't quite as exciting to me, but the melody it repeats and builds on is just absolutely gorgeous, especially at about two minutes in when the strings section takes over.

If you want something that opens with oompff, try Brahms Piano Concerto No 1. (His No 2 is more subdued but also splendid).

One suggestion I can make as you go exploring; don't go looking for "the best" composer, because they all have their strengths. It's like looking for the most beautiful woman :(

In any case, your tastes will change as you learn more. If you can find a friend to discuss what you are listening to, it makes it very rewarding. The older Cd's had good cover notes about the music inside, and you will find that it helps your appreciation if you can find them.

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Also my least favorite of the Concertos, but still towers over many other pieces by other composers, even if only for sheer melody and integration.

I loved #2 most for a long, long time; then #3 took over. But now, I am simply in thrall to Rachmaninoff's Suite No. 2 for 2 pianos, op. 17.

Speaking as a layman, I am much more a fan of Piano Concertos than of any other type of formal composition. Perhaps this owes to a subconscious association of piano with pure melody.

Having heard work by Brahms, Strauss (Richard), Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Bach, Chopin, Schumann and others, I've come to narrow my personal desire to "long, melodious and integrated pieces played on the piano, with or without accompaniment." (This is not to say that some non-piano-driven pieces do not move me -- Wagner, Saint-Saens, and more recently, John Williams' Superman come quickly to mind.)

My formula is to check before buying: Is the piece largely piano? Is it more consonant than dissonant? Is the composer Romantic?

With the non-piano items, sometimes I get lucky and stumble on some great value.

I love the violin too, but it has a strong association with "regret" or "longing" in my mind, which is good for some days but not for most: I only need watch the news for that.

Apart from my Rachmaninoff recommendation above, try Chopin's Piano Concertos 1 and 2. They are very, very good but take a little getting used to if you're heavily into Rachmaninoff's style.

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Also my least favorite of the Concertos, but still towers over many other pieces by other composers, even if only for sheer melody and integration.

My thoughts, exactly.

I am simply in thrall to Rachmaninoff's Suite No. 2 for 2 pianos, op. 17.

I think of this as one of Rachmaninoff's greatest works. "Rhapsody" still remains my favorite, but Suite No. 2 for 2 pianos is a close second.

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Thanks to everyone for the suggestions :(

The criticisms I'm hearing here of the 4th Concerto do make sense to me when comparing them to both outside sources of critique I've read and my own experience in listening to the concerto; and that is that for the large part of this particular concerto, there usually isn't a strongly discernible melody.

This doesn't really bother me though, because in my experience of listening to Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky so far, I've noticed that though Rachmaninoff's melodies may be more subtle than Tchaikovksy's, with repeated listenings you can grow to grasp and love them more. Tchaikovsky appears to love to craft a powerful, beautiful melody, and repeat it while building on it throughout his work; while from what I've seen (or more appropriately, heard) Rachmaninoff doesn't do this quite as often.

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One more, Carlos; the Piano Concerto in A, by Edvard Grieg. I played it tonight, not having llistened to it in quite a while. It has beautiful melodies and is richly dramatic. It is often ranked along side of Tchaikovsky's first and Rachmaninoff's second as one of the top three romantic concertos. A great listening adventure.

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Carlos, yes, Rachmaninoff's works definitely improve with repeated listening, because of the patterns he weaves into the music, which I eventually recognize. It took me years to be able to identify his often-used "dies irae" theme.

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I love the violin too, but it has a strong association with "regret" or "longing" in my mind, which is good for some days but not for most: I only need watch the news for that.

The violin, as an instrument, has a sound quality that is the most like the female human voice.

My favorite pieces are those in which I hear the violin laughing such Pachelbel's Canon in D.

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The violin, as an instrument, has a sound quality that is the most like the female human voice.

My favorite pieces are those in which I hear the violin laughing such Pachelbel's Canon in D.

While I would agree that the violin's voice in general is more like a woman's voice than a man's,

I've got some old gypsy music in which the violin sounds quite masculine and powerful.

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