Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 &
Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1


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Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Arvo Volmer - Conductor
Indrek Laul - Pianist

Consonant Works: CW1011

Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky
Piano Concerto No. 1 [37'58]

1 – Allegro non tropoo e molto maestoso 1-[22'52]
2 – Andante semplice 2-[7'32]
3 – Allegro con fuoco 3-[7'34]

Franz Liszt
Piano Concerto No. 1 [19'29]

1 – Allegro maestoso Tempo giusto 4-[5'44]
2 – Quasi adagio 5-[4'54]
3 – Allegretto vivace 6-[4'23]
4 – Allegro marziale animato 7-[4'28]

Total Time [57'27]


The piano concerto is a popular orchestral form featuring the piano as solo instrument. It is the natural format to display the talent of a virtuoso pianist to a wide audience, and doubly attractive if the composer and soloist are one and the same.

Bach wrote 12 such concertos, some for as many as four harpsichords. Mozart pushed the envelope with 27, including a few for two and three pianos. Beethoven set a very high standard with his groundbreaking 5, followed by an explosion of piano concertos by composers both renowned and forgotten. Among the renowned is Chopin with 2, Liszt 2, Schumann 1, Brahms 2, Grieg 1, Tchaikovsky 3 and Rakhmaninov 4. Among the forgotten are hundreds by such composers as Ignaz Moscheles, Mihaly Mosonyi, Bernard Stavenhagen and, of course, Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Worthy, but alas forgotten!

Why some works captivate listeners and others do not is not easily explained. Compositions by the same composer can vary greatly. Among the favorite of all piano concertos is the Tchaikvosky First. But his Second and Third Piano Concertos are rarely performed, and for good reason.


Pytor Il'yich Tchaikovsky (b. Votkinsk, Russia 1840; d. St. Petersburg, Russia, 1893) was a Russian composer and conductor. The most successful Russian composer of the 19th Century, he composed operas, symphonies, violin and piano concertos, choral works, and more.

"At a trial performance of it [The Piano Concerto No. 1, composed in 1875], his friend and former teacher, Nicholas Rubinstein, to whom it was dedicated, and who had promised to play the piano part, began to criticize it unmercifully and ended by saying it was quite unplayable and unsuited to the piano. No one could blame the composer for being offended and hurt. He at once erased the name of Nicholas Rubinstein from the title page and dedicated the work to Hans von Bülow, who not long after performed it [as soloist] with tremendous success in America …."[1]

Tchaikovsky successfully conducted the work at the opening celebrations for the newly completed Carnegie Hall, New York, with Ade'le aus der Ohe as soloist in 1891. In 1893, at the height of his career Tchaikovsky's life was cut short by a cholera epidemic in St. Petersburg.

In 1958 American pianist Van Cliburn won the International Tchaikovsky Competition, at the height of the Cold War, in Moscow with a performance of the Tchaikovsky First. A subsequent recording by Van Cliburn sold a million copies greatly popularizing the concerto.


Franz Liszt (b. Raiding, Hungary 1811, d. Bayreuth, Germany 1886) was a Hungarian pianist, composer, teacher and writer.

Liszt began a long and successful musical career at the age of twelve, with his father arranging a concert tour of Hungary, Austria, Germany, France and England. When he was thirty-five, and by far the most famous pianist in Europe, he gave up the life of a touring virtuoso, settling in Weimar Germany to concentrate on composing and conducting.

The first performance of his Piano Concerto No. 1 was given On February 17, 1855 in Weimer with Hector Berlioz conducting and Franz Liszt as piano soloist.[2] Liszt's nemesis, the influential music critic Eduard Hanslick derisively referred to the work as the 'Triangle Concerto', seizing upon the unconventional role, in his view, the triangle plays in the third movement. Liszt, who was regularly at odds with "the doctrinaire Hanslick"[3], notes in a letter to his cousin Eduard Liszt: "As regards the triangle I do not deny that it may give offence, especially if struck too strong and not precisely." Liszt continued, in jest, to note that "…Beethoven allowed himself to be seduced into using the big drum and triangle in the Finale of the Ninth Symphony" [4]

Today this remarkable work, with objections to its unconformity now irrelevant, has entered the standard repertoire.

Ronald A. Stordahl
Dr. Ronald A. Stordahl
Thief River Falls Minnesota
May 2007

[1] Brower, Harriette. 1922, The World's Great Men of Music. New York NY : Frederick A. Stokes Co.

[2] Walker, Alan. 1989. Franz Liszt – The Weimer Years. Ithaca NY : Cornell University Press. p. 256.

[3] La Mara, ed. Letters of Franz Liszt. Vol. 1. Bache, Constance. Translator. London, 1893.

[4] Ibid.