Grieg A Minor Piano Concerto
Rakhmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2



Pianist: Indrek Laul

Conductor: Arvo Volmer

Track Listings:

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

Consonant Works: CW1021

Edvard Grieg
A Minor Piano Concerto [31'52]

1 – Allegro molto moderato 1-[14'21]
2 – Adagio 2-[6'41]
3 – Allegro moderato molto e marcato 3-[10'50]

Sergey Vasil'yevich Rakhmaninov
Piano Concerto No. 2 [36'56]

1 – Moderato 4-[11'17]
2 – Adagio sostenuto 5-[13'23]
3 – Allegro scherzando 6-[12'16]

Total Time [68'48]


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 are 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 Tchaikovsky First. But his Second and Third Piano Concertos are rarely performed, and for good reason.


Edvard Grieg (b. Bergen, Norway 1843; d. Bergen, 1907) was a Norwegian pianist and composer. The most successful Norwegian composer, he is best known for the Piano Concerto in A Minor, Incidental Music to Ibsen's Peer Gynt and the Lyric Pieces, a collection of miniatures for piano.

"Edward Hargarup Grieg, 'the Chopin of the North,' was a unique personality, as well as an exceptional musician and composer. While not a 'wonder child,' in the sense that Mozart, Chopin and Liszt were, he early showed his love for music and his rapt enjoyment of the music of the home circle."[1]

The A Minor Piano Concerto was composed in 1868, when Grieg was twenty-five. He revised it many times, with final version completed in the last year of his life.

Its opening theme is as memorable as that of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1. Grieg completes the first movement with a return to the opening theme. The lyric second movement, Adagio, overflows with beauty. The final movement, Allegro moderator molto e marcato, picks up the tempo, beginning in march time, transitioning to waltz time and concluding with a majestic melody in standard time. It is a perfectly constructed piano concerto!


Sergey Vasil'yevich Rakhmaninov (b.Novgorod,Russia1873; d. Beverly Hills, California 1943) was a Russian pianist, composer, and conductor. While he composed in nearly every musical form, he is best known today for his solo piano compositions and works for piano and orchestra.

Sergey entered the Petrograd Conservatory at age nine, and later the Moscow Conservatory where he studied with Zvierev, Siloti and Arensky, winning the gold metal for composition in 1892. In that year he began an active schedule of composing, conducting and performing. In 1901 Rakhmaninov premiered his Piano Concerto No. 2 with great success in Moscow with Alexander Siloti, his cousin, conducting. In 1909-10 he appeared in the United States as conductor and piano soloist of his own works, including the just completed Piano Concerto No. 3.[2] With these two works his fame was assured.

Rakhmaninov was a big man, 6 feet 6, and with big hands, which he used to great advantage. We can tell this by listening to his performance of the Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Philadelphia Orchestra made in 1929. The work begins with very dense chords, repeated eight times with subtle changes, representative of the tolling of Russian bells. In the left hand the chord begins with an interval of a minor tenth, and consists of up to 4 notes, while in the right the span is that of an octave, including up to 5 notes, thus up to 9 notes are to be struck at once! By the fifth measure the interval is raised to a major tenth, which would not be so difficult if it where not for two intermediate notes stretching more modest hands beyond the limit. As a result, in many recordings of this work by excellent pianists the left hand chord is played as 'broken', with the low F played separately quickly followed by the remaining notes of the chord. The 'broken' effect is not unpleasant; however Rakhmaninov performed the chords as written, as does our soloist Indrek Laul.

Throughout the piano compositions of Rakhmaninov rich harmonies are made possible by his great hands.

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] Saerchinger, César. 1918. International Who's Who in Music, New York NY: Current Literature Publishing Company.