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Second concerto pour le piano avec accompagnement
de l’orchestre ou avec quintuor, Op. 21

Solo Piano Part
(Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, [1836])

Gilmore Music Library

second concerto op. 21 chopin


The great majority of Chopin’s music is for piano alone. He did compose a handful of other works, such as a cello sonata, some songs, and several works for piano and orchestra, including two concertos. Chopin wrote the Concerto in F Minor (displayed here) in 1829 and gave the first performance himself in Warsaw in the same year. It did not see print until 1836, when it was issued as the Concerto No. 2, Op. 21. The E Minor Concerto was composed in 1830, but it was published first (in 1833), so in was christened No. 1, and bears a lower opus number, 11. Throughout his years in France, Chopin never returned to the concerto genre. In his era, composers typically wrote concertos for their own use. Once he had decided that his career lay in the salons of the aristocracy rather than as a traveling virtuoso, he had no need of more concertos.

The title page states that this concerto can be played with the accompaniment of orchestra or quintet; the latter possibility was clearly a way to sell the piece to amateur musicians who lacked ready access to the larger ensemble. There is no question that Chopin intended it for orchestra, though some critics have complained that his orchestral writing is no match for his mastery of the piano.

The concerto is dedicated to Chopin’s friend Countess Delfina Potocka (1807–1877). Like him, she was a Polish exile living in Paris. Potocka achieved a peculiar form of posthumous celebrity in the middle of the twentieth century, following the discovery of a collection of lurid letters that appeared to document a passionate affair between her and Chopin. Scholars eventually demonstrated that the letters were forged, apparently by Paulina Czernicka, the woman who had first brought them to light.