Context, form and style in Sterndale Bennett's piano concertos.


A concert pianist in his own right and a prodigious youth, Sterndale Bennett composed his five complete piano concertos at the beginning of his career. Although Mozart is often cited as a major influence on Bennett’s musical style, and Bennett was a keen executant of Mozart’s piano concertos throughout his career as a virtuoso (at a time when a performing tradition of Mozart’s concertos was still establishing itself), of equal or even greater impact on Bennett’s style of concerto was the ‘London School’ of pianists, among them Field, Hummel, Potter (Bennett’s teacher), Cramer and Moscheles whose first-movement structural paradigms of ritornello and sonata are especially evident in the corresponding movements of the first four of Bennett’s concertos. Structural and stylistic factors are also discussed in relation to the more romantically inclined slow movements (which includes an examination of the programmatic movement of the Third Concerto in C minor Op. 9, so enthusiastically reviewed by Schumann in Leipzig, and the unpublished ‘Adagio in G minor’) as well as the ‘shared sonata’ schemes of the finales in which the influence of Mendelssohn features more conspicuously. Finally, the stylistic amalgam of Bennett’s concertos, in particular the frequently performed Fourth Concerto in F minor Op. 19 and the unpublished Konzert-Stück in A minor, is considered within the larger context of the first half of the nineteenth century with particular reference to the tensions that existed between the composer’s classical instincts and the desire to experiment with freer Romantic forms

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