• Kenneth Leighton
  • Piano Concerto No. 3 'Concerto Estivo' (1969)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)
  • 22234331timp.3perchpstr
  • 33 min

Programme Note

Piano Concerto No. 3 (Concerto Estivo), Op. 57

Introduction and Allegro
Pastoral
Final Variations

This concerto was composed during the spring and summer of 1969, and, as its subtitle suggests, tries to express something of the warmth and beauty of that summer, which seemed so extraordinary to one who had not lived in the south of England for many years. On the whole the music is more relaxed, more lyrical, and certainly more tonal than that of the previous two piano concertos, and there is also much less emphasis on counterpoint, and more on vertical sonorities. Indeed the mainspring of all the music is basically a single chord (D E G# C#), and a great deal of the music is in the sunny key of D major.

As in the previous two piano concertos, the soloist plays 'with' rather than 'against' the orchestra, but at the same time the piano has more of a leading rôle than before, and presents most of the melodic material.

The first movement begins with a slow introduction, and at the very opening the piano sings the 'motto' theme in dotted rhythm. Although many subsequent tunes are variations of this theme, it does not re-appear in this first form until the final section of the third movement.

The Allegro which follows has two main themes; the first another gentle and cantabile melody, first heard simply on the piano in octaves, the second very lively and boisterous, first played by horns and timpani. The middle section of the movement consists of a single paragraph, in which both these themes are discussed, and this culminates in a cadenza-like passage for the piano, to which is added the first theme on strings. A final short reference to the second lively theme brings the movement to quite a swift close.

The slow melody of the Pastoral is very closely related to the 'motto' theme of the Introduction. Foreshadowed first in very high notes on the piano (D E C#) it finds its full shape in the tenor range of the piano, and later on cellos. The middle section is more agitated and dance-like, and leads to a passionate re-statement of the main melody, accompanied by bell-like chords. Finally there is an extended and delicate coda which rejoices in the warmth and stillness of a long hot summer afternoon.

The Final Variations are played without a break, though the various sections are quite clear. (1) allegro molto - a very fast and rhythmical version of the motto theme. (2) A broader and more expressive dialogue between piano and orchestra, accompanied by measured chords, and culminating in a short cadenza for the soloist. (3) A series of continuous variations in which the piano is matched first with pizzicato strings, then with brass chords, and finally with extended melodic lines on wood-wind and strings. (4) All this culminates in a more extended cadenza for piano. (5) A slow recapitulation of the 'motto' theme from the opening of the concerto. (6) A very fast coda, in which the basic chord predominates.

© Kenneth Leighton

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