|Camille Saint-Saëns Opus 44|
Piano Concerto No. 4 in C minorPiano concerto in C minor. Time: 25'30.
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Piano Concerto No. 4 in C minor (concerto pour piano en ut mineur), Op. 44 by Camille Saint-Saëns, is the composer's most structurally innovative piano concerto. It follows the typical concerto format of three movements, but the central Andante section is usually attached seamlessly to the preceding Allegro moderato. In fact, the entire work can be played as a unified whole. It is technically divided into two sections:
It begins with a gently mischievous chromatic subject, heard in dialogue between the strings and piano soloist, and continues in a creative thematic development similar to Saint-Saëns' third symphony. The composer demonstrates brilliant skill in employing the piano and orchestra almost equally. In the Andante, he introduces a hymn-like theme with the woodwinds (also strikingly similar to the tune of the third symphony's final section), and uses this as a platform on which he builds a series of variations before bringing the movement to a quiet close.
The Allegro vivace begins as a playful and cunning scherzo (although still in C minor), deriving its main theme from the original chromatic subject in the beginning of the first movement. There is a bold switch to 6/8 time, and the piano leads the orchestra into a new brief but energetic theme, oddly resembling the popular song "The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo." Eventually the orchestra moves into a lush Andante, recapitulating the chorale-style melody. Rather suddenly, the piano climbs up to a flurry of double octave trills and a climactic trumpet fanfare, leading to the jubilant finale based once more on the hymn theme played at triple time. The concerto concludes with the piano, in cadenza-like cascades, guiding the orchestra to a fortissimo close.
The piano concerto was premièred in 1875 with the composer as the soloist. The concerto is dedicated to Antoine Door, a professor of piano at the Vienna Conservatory. It continues to be one of Saint-Saëns' most popular piano concertos, second only to the Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor. This highly inventive work, along with many others, does much to refute the caricature of a purely reactionary Saint-Saëns.
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