The Piano Concerto in C minor is one of the early compositions by the English composer Frederick Delius. The piece underwent repeated revisions that resulted in the existence of three major versions which significantly differ from one another. The first public performance of any version was played by Julius Buths with the conductor Hans Haym on 24 October 1904 in Elberfeld, Germany.
The time required for the performance is different between versions.
- 1897 version: about 30 min.
- 1904 version: about 28 min.
- 1907 version:, 22 min.
The following description is mainly based on the final version.
- Moderato C minor 4/4
This part is written in sonata form. A six-bar orchestral introduction is followed by a solo piano. This opening remained unchanged in all three versions. In the tempo molto tranquillo, the soloist plays the lyric second subject with the accompaniment of strings and horn. Recent study shows that these two themes reflect the influence of spiritual music which the composer heard in his period in Florida. The development, which starts in tempo quietly, expands by changing its atmosphere with demanding passages for the solo piano. This part does not appear in the final version, where the climax of the second subject is directly connected to the next section.
- Largo D-flat 4/4
The section starts with a calm monologue by solo piano. After an echo of the first theme from the earlier section, the subject is played by the orchestra in romantic vein, with ornamentation by the piano. The music gradually accelerates, to the dignified presentation of the main theme by horns. A calm piano solo comes back subsequently and the dialogue between piano and cello diminishes to ppp. Finally, a technically demanding piano passage bridges this section to the final part.
- Maestoso C minor 4/4
The solo piano marks the beginning of the final section by decisively repeating the first subject of the concerto. In this section, numerous glissandos are played by the soloist. Shortly after the recapitulation of the second theme, the tempo changes into Vivace and the soloist plays arpeggio against a timpani rhythm echoed from the first section. The tempo immediately returns to Maestoso; the coda using both subjects. Finally, the concerto ends in C major where the piano soloist has a triumphant scale while the timpani beats the previous rhythm.
The first version of 1897 is a three-in-one structure of "Allegro non troppo"—"Largo"—"Tempo primo". The 1904 version comprises three movements of "Allegro ma non troppo", "Largo", and "Maestoso con moto moderato".