He then put away the manuscript for a decade. When he returned to the concerto, he revised and scrutinized it repeatedly. The fourth and final period of revision ended in 1861. Liszt dedicated the work to his student Hans von Bronsart, who gave the first performance, with Liszt conducting, in Weimar on January 7, 1857.
A typical performance of this concerto lasts about 20 minutes.
The second concerto, while less virtuosic than the First Piano Concerto, shows far more originality in form. In this respect it reveals a closer link to Liszt's better known symphonic poems in both style and structure. Also, while the final version of the First Concerto could be considered a soloist's showpiece, the Second shows Liszt attempting to confirm his compositional talent while distancing himself from his virtuoso performance origins. Liszt is less generous with technical devices for the soloist such as scales in octaves and contrary motion; instead of an overbearing virtuoso, the pianist often becomes an accompanist to woodwinds and strings.
The soloist does not dominate the thematic material—in fact, after the opening, the pianist never has the theme in its original form. Instead, his role is to create, or at least seem to create, inventive variations that lead the listener through a series of thematic transformations. The various pauses and silences are not intended breaks in the musical flow but rather as transitions in the musical discourse. "Organic unity" lends structure to the entire work.
More pieces by Liszt
- Les Préludes