Sheet Music: Complete Score
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Franz Liszt wrote drafts for his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in A Major, S.125, during his virtuoso period, in 1839 to 1840. He then put away the manuscript for a decade. When he returned to the concerto, he revised and scrutinized it repeatedly. The fourth and final period of revision ended in 1861. Liszt dedicated the work to his student Hans von Bronsart, who gave the first performance, with Liszt conducting, in Weimaron January 7, 1857.This concerto is one single, long movement, divided into six sections that are connected by transformations of several themes:
Adagio sostenuto assai
The key musical idea of this concerto comes at the beginning. Quietly yet confidently, half a dozen woodwinds, no more than five at a time, play a sequence of two chords—an A major chord with a C♯ on top, then a dominant seventh on F natural. The first chord sounds very ordinary. The second opens possibilities unhinted by what preceded it. One note connects the two chords—an A. This sequence sounds colorful and strange yet inevitable and easily grasped.
- Allegro agitato assai
This is technically the scherzo of the piece. It starts in B-flat minor and ends in C-sharp minor.
- Allegro moderato
This section contains a great deal of lyricism and proceeds at an unhurried pace. Among its charms is a metamorphosis of the opening theme, played by solo cello while accompanied by the piano, showing the influence of Italian bel canto on Liszt’s work.
- Allegro deciso
- Marziale un poco meno allegro
Yet another transformation of the gentle opening theme, this movement has also nearly always been attacked as vulgar and a betrayal of both the initial character of this theme and the concerto on the whole. American musicologist Robert Winter disagreed. He called the march “a masterstroke that demonstrates the full emotional range of thematic transformation.” The march contains the force and weight needed to reestablish the home key of A major, from which the music has been moving quite far since the concerto opened.
- Allegro animato