Urtext based on the Leipzig Mendelssohn Complete Edition edited by Christoph Hellmundt [pno,orch] duration: 23'
Piano reduction from the Complete Edition
Printed in score form; two copies are needed for performance.
48 pages | 23 x 30,5 cm | 199 g | ISMN: 979-0-004-18323-6 | Saddle Stitch
Siegfried Petrenz based his piano reduction (Pianoforte II) on the music text of the Complete Edition. It affords the greatest possible transparency for the pianist, as well as the best premises for effective practice and performance. The music text is preceded by the editor's preface, which sheds light above all on the eventful genesis of the work and on the first performances. Mendelssohn played the solo part himself at the world premiere in Birmingham in 1837, and the work achieved great renown in the composer's lifetime thanks to various soloists and three printed editions.
After the publication of the Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor in 1832, Mendelssohn spent several years entertaining the idea of writing another piano concerto. It was only after his wedding with Cécile Jeanrenaud on 28 March 1837, and the honeymoon that he undertook with her, that he began to consider this project more seriously. His renewed interest was perhaps triggered by the invitation to take part in the Birmingham Musical Festival, which he had received in January. Although he was scheduled to conduct his St. Paul there, it is quite possible that he soon expressed the wish to bring along a new piano concerto. Realizing this plan, however, proved to be quite a struggle. He seems to have begun composing the piece in mid May 1837. “I have already begun the new concerto and, as usual, I am terribly cross – what a wretched thing is the piano and its 100,000 little notes,” he wrote in late June to Klingemann. After a whole series of changes, he completed the piano part in Bingen on 26 July.
He must have begun scoring the piece now at the latest; just as in the G minor Concerto, he notated only the orchestral parts in the score, and not the solo part. After a four-week stay in Bingen, the young couple spent another two weeks in Ehrenbreitstein on the Rhine beginning on 3 August, with frequent visits to the wine-growing estate of the composer’s uncle Joseph Mendelssohn in nearby Horchheim. There Mendelssohn brought the score of the piano concerto to a provisional end on 5 August. He announced it to Breitkopf & Härtel that very day: “I shall be bringing along a new piano concerto and several other larger works, and would be most pleased if you could help some of this see the light of day.” The composer then left on his fifth trip to England directly from Ehrenbreitstein. He arrived in London on 27 August and spent a good two weeks there before continuing on to the Birmingham Music Festival. Under the dates 3 and 4 September he noted in his diary: “Wrote out the piano part of my D minor concerto.” Although it is unclear as to which copy he was working on in London, there can be no doubt that the piano part completed in Bingen on 26 July no longer corresponded to the score and had to be replaced or revised.
The world premiere took place at the Birmingham Music Festival (19–22 September 1837) after only one rehearsal. Mendelssohn himself played the solo part. On 18 September he noted: “For all four festival days, all seven performances [i.e. concerts of the Music Festival], just one day of rehearsal. […] Then there was [after rehearsals for St. Paul, among other works] a second session when I was to rehearse the concerto that I wrote in Bingen. But half the musicians were in the theater rehearsing Semiramide and the other half had dwindled to 1/8 of their forces by sleep and desertion. The wind instruments were almost all missing. I declared that I would not play my concerto without a rehearsal […].” The rehearsal took place the following day, after the first concert of the festival, whereby the composer was apparently obliged to play on an inadequate piano: “[…] the orchestra was retained for the rehearsal of my concerto. Many audience members stayed behind. After the three-hour-long concert I played on a little dulcimer-like piano. The people just about fell over themselves with delight after the first solo passage of the last movement – an incredible tumult.” The performance of 21 September under the direction of George Smart was a great success. Mendelssohn noted: “Eight o’clock in the evening, sixth performance. A miscellaneous concert. I played my concerto on an Erard […] They demanded the repeat of the last movement, but I was too tired […].”
The audience’s reactions to the world premiere are documented in a series of enthusiastic reviews. The London daily The Morning Post described Mendelssohn’s concerto as “one of his most brilliant accomplishments […] It is the high intellectual character of his compositions that so separates him from the works of his contemporaries.” Soon after his return to Leipzig Mendelssohn gave the German premiere of his new concerto under Ferdinand David at the third Gewandhaus subscription concert on 19 October 1837. The London premiere took place on 5 March 1838 in the Philharmonic Society under the direction of George Smart. The soloist was Lucy Anderson, the dedicatee of the English first edition. Just a few weeks after the second London performance, on 3 July 1838, the work was heard there a third time, now with Louise Dulcken as soloist. This pianist is said to have played the concerto in Dublin on 16 February 1847 with a cadenza by the composer. Unfortunately, neither the cadenza nor any other kind of document about this are known today. Solely a surviving set of printed performance parts from Mendelssohn’s estate provides a clue that the concerto was once (or frequently?) played or intended to be played with a cadenza. This material is a copy of the Novello edition consisting of a piano part and one string part per instrument. The word “Cadenza” is inscribed in Mendelssohn’s hand at m. 320 of movement I in all four string parts. This is in conjunction with a fermata added over the half-note rest at the first half of the measure and the deletion of the second half of the measure. There is no ascertainable connection, however, between this set of parts and the lost cadenza for Louise Dulcken.
The work achieved considerable popularity during the composer’s lifetime. It was played frequently, in a great number of cities, and by a variety of pianists. In the summer of 1838 it was brought out in print nearly simultaneously by three publishers, Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Novello in London and Schonenberger in Paris.
Detailed information on the edition is contained in the corresponding volume of the Mendelssohn Complete Edition, which also forms the basis of the present edition for two pianos. The editor cordially extends his thanks to all the institutions and their staff mentioned in the “Kritischer Bericht” of this volume for putting the source material at his disposal.
Kürbitz, Fall 2008
We offer a PDF of the complete text with all notes for download.