In the last two of his five piano concertos Beethoven tried out various solutions to the problem of how to start a concerto – the Fourth has the soloist quietly introducing the main theme while the Fifth has her/him thundering up and down the keyboard. But, these innovations notwithstanding, the outline of the important first movement in both works remained much the same as in the composer’s three earlier efforts in the medium.
In 1831, four years after Beethoven’s death, the then 22 year old Felix Mendelssohn gave the premier of what he entitled his first concerto (though there had been a number of juvenile works for piano(s) and strings). In dispensing almost entirely with the orchestral introduction and having the soloist playing nearly throughout the work, he not only revolutionised the form but also set a trend that many later composers were to follow.
In addition, the composer followed Beethoven’s lead (Fifth Concerto, 2nd and 3rd movements) in the joining two movements without a break – though this may have had much to do with Mendelssohn’s dislike of the contemporary fashion of applauding whenever music stopped!
A Second Concerto (in d) followed six years later. It was written for Birmingham where the composer had a considerable and doting following. And though, like Beethoven’s Fourth, it starts quietly, it also takes on board all the novelties that appeared in its older sibling.