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Five masterpieces you've never heard of

Giuseppe Martucci, Moritz Moszkowski, and Sergei Bortkievwicz
Giuseppe Martucci, Moritz Moszkowski, and Sergei Bortkievwicz

I recently wrote about my favorite concertos and there weren’t any surprises in my selections. There wasn’t a claim that George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F amongst the greatest of concertos. I didn’t claim that Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto was superior to Beethoven’s or Brahms’s.


However, in the past few weeks, I have been wallowing in a new and exquisite pool of piano concertos by composers you may have never heard of. It has been nothing short of a revelation to find composers such as Franz Xaver Scharwenka, Anton Urspruch, Sergei Borkiewicz, Moritz Mozkowski, and Giuseppe Martucci. With these composers in mind, here are five concertos that any fan of piano concertos will fall in love with, immediately.


Franz Xaver Scharwenka’s Piano Concerto No. 4 is a masterpiece. There is no way around it. The solo piano part is a monster that demands technical and expressive brilliance from the soloist. Does it sit at the very top of the heap with Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mozart? Maybe not but it is certainly at the level of Edward Grieg or Robert Schumann’s concertos. I would also say it can hang with Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt’s efforts in the idiom. Maybe it comes in below Sergei Prokofiev.

Video:

Sharwenka: Piano Concerto No. 4




Anton Urspruch’s Piano Concerto Opus 9 is less technically brilliant than Scharwenka. It is lyrical and more delightful than impressive. I do not give it the masterpiece status, but it is a good listen if you’re looking for something new.


Video:

Urspruch: Piano Concerto




Sergei Borkiewicz was a Ukrainian composer and I’m surprised that all the Russian concertos weren’t replaced by his in the frenzied opening months of the war. Of course, when Borkiewicz was born Ukraine was a part of Tsarist Russia so there’s that. His orchestral approach is reminiscent if not downright derivative of Tchaikovsky but that doesn’t bother me one bit. His Piano Concerto No. 1 is a remarkable piece of music. It is unapologetically romantic.


Video:

Bortkiewicz: Piano Concerto No. 1


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Moritz Moszkowski wrote two piano concertos. The second was discovered in 2011 and was published in 2013, 88 years after his death in 1925. Obviously, his Piano Concerto No. 1 is the better-known of the pair even if it is technically not that well known at all. I loved this piece of music immediately. As with all of these compositions, it is easy to listen to, almost as if Moszkowski was trying to entertain his audience. Imagine that.


Video:

Moszkowski: Piano Concerto in E Major




Giuseppe Martucci was a non-operatic Italian composer. While he did write some pieces for voice and choir, he wrote no operas even though he was born in 1865 and was a contemporary of both Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. You can hear his dedication to structure in the very opening measures of his Piano Concerto No. 2. As a bonus, I would recommend his Piano Quintet.


Video:

Martucci: Piano Concerto No. 2




Video:

Martucci: Piano Quintet in C Major






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Giuseppe Martucci, Moritz Moszkowski, and Sergei Bortkievwicz
Giuseppe Martucci, Moritz Moszkowski, and Sergei Bortkievwicz

I recently wrote about my favorite concertos and there weren’t any surprises in my selections. There wasn’t a claim that George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F amongst the greatest of concertos. I didn’t claim that Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto was superior to Beethoven’s or Brahms’s.


However, in the past few weeks, I have been wallowing in a new and exquisite pool of piano concertos by composers you may have never heard of. It has been nothing short of a revelation to find composers such as Franz Xaver Scharwenka, Anton Urspruch, Sergei Borkiewicz, Moritz Mozkowski, and Giuseppe Martucci. With these composers in mind, here are five concertos that any fan of piano concertos will fall in love with, immediately.


Franz Xaver Scharwenka’s Piano Concerto No. 4 is a masterpiece. There is no way around it. The solo piano part is a monster that demands technical and expressive brilliance from the soloist. Does it sit at the very top of the heap with Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mozart? Maybe not but it is certainly at the level of Edward Grieg or Robert Schumann’s concertos. I would also say it can hang with Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt’s efforts in the idiom. Maybe it comes in below Sergei Prokofiev.

Video:

Sharwenka: Piano Concerto No. 4




Anton Urspruch’s Piano Concerto Opus 9 is less technically brilliant than Scharwenka. It is lyrical and more delightful than impressive. I do not give it the masterpiece status, but it is a good listen if you’re looking for something new.


Video:

Urspruch: Piano Concerto




Sergei Borkiewicz was a Ukrainian composer and I’m surprised that all the Russian concertos weren’t replaced by his in the frenzied opening months of the war. Of course, when Borkiewicz was born Ukraine was a part of Tsarist Russia so there’s that. His orchestral approach is reminiscent if not downright derivative of Tchaikovsky but that doesn’t bother me one bit. His Piano Concerto No. 1 is a remarkable piece of music. It is unapologetically romantic.


Video:

Bortkiewicz: Piano Concerto No. 1


Sponsored
Sponsored



Moritz Moszkowski wrote two piano concertos. The second was discovered in 2011 and was published in 2013, 88 years after his death in 1925. Obviously, his Piano Concerto No. 1 is the better-known of the pair even if it is technically not that well known at all. I loved this piece of music immediately. As with all of these compositions, it is easy to listen to, almost as if Moszkowski was trying to entertain his audience. Imagine that.


Video:

Moszkowski: Piano Concerto in E Major




Giuseppe Martucci was a non-operatic Italian composer. While he did write some pieces for voice and choir, he wrote no operas even though he was born in 1865 and was a contemporary of both Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. You can hear his dedication to structure in the very opening measures of his Piano Concerto No. 2. As a bonus, I would recommend his Piano Quintet.


Video:

Martucci: Piano Concerto No. 2




Video:

Martucci: Piano Quintet in C Major






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