I. Allegramente II. Adagio assai III. Presto
Ravel wrote his two piano concertos at almost the same time, in the early 1930’s. The concerto for left hand was commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein (brother of the philosopher), who has lost an arm in the First World War. Ravel initially planned to premiere the G major concerto himself, but the technical demands of the piece he had written, persuaded him to think better of the idea. It was ultimately premiered by Marguerite Long in January 1932. The two artists then left for a tour of Central Europe, and the G major piano concerto was premiered in Hungary on April 18th at the Pest Vigado hall.
“In my view, the music of a concerto should be happy and brilliant, without striving for depth or dramatic effect. Initially I wanted to call the work Divertissement but then I changed my mind, and I felt that the term concerto was the one that clearly refered to the character of the music. From certain perspectives, the concerto is related to the Violin Sonata; some elements have also been borrowed from jazz, but only in moderation…” Thus responded Ravel to an English journalist who had asked him about the G major concerto. Researchers warn us not to take Ravel’s insistance that the music is light and empty literally. We know from the writings of Gustave Sazamenilh that Ravel was considering the composition of a piano concerto even in the 1910’s, which would be a monument to the Basque region of the Pyranese where he was born and where he visited every summer. The two outer movements of the G major concerto derive from the sketches for the earlier work, so they must have meant rather more for Ravel than mere brilliant playing. The slow movement, which he wrote down a little later, owes nothing to an earlier plan – according to his first biographer and close friend Roland Maneul, he was inspired by the slow movement from Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet.