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Nailbreaking, Romantic: 10 Piano Concertos You Must Listen To

Raul Sunico, celebrated concert pianist and President of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, shares the concertos he enjoys listening to.
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1. Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, by Sergei Rachmaninoff
Perhaps the most sublime of the concerto repertory. It contains technical virtuosity, musical maturity, and dramatic intensity in a beautifully interwoven structure. This is my most memorable concerto. It was the piece for my graduation recital at the University of the Philippines College of Music, my farewell concert at the Cultural Center of the Philippines before I left for a scholarship in New York, and my finale concerto at the performance of four Rachmaninoff concertos in one evening at the CCP.

2. Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor, Op. 1, by Sergei Rachmaninoff
The dramatic technical flourishes of its first and third movements are contrasted by the slow yet flowing second movement, which contains one of the most poignant melodies I’ve ever heard.

3. Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23, by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
One of the most popular concertos of all time. The opening melody has become a popular theme.

4. Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor by Sergei Prokofiev
It’s an extremely demanding piece of technical virtuosity filled with harmonic chromaticism and exciting dissonance, with the orchestral accompaniment actively and constantly engaged in dialogue with the pianist.

5. Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, by Sergei Prokofiev
Arresting pulsating rhythms and technical flourish characteristic of Prokofiev, interspersed with mystic moments of introspection. I performed this concerto at the U.P. College of Music during an awarding ceremony. (Raul was named Outstanding U.P. Music Student of the Year.)

6. Piano Concerto 38, by Samuel Barber
Exciting 20th century creation of Barber where dissonance, extreme volumes, and complex rhythms punctuate almost every moment of the composition leading to a rousing conclusion.

7. Concerto in F, by George Gershwin
Refreshing jazz style in a more formal structure, typical in its syncopation, broken chords, and playful rhythms. I played this at my first concert with the University of Santo Tomas Symphony Orchestra under the conductor Herminigildo Ranera.

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8. Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 83, by Johannes Brahmes
A towering work filled with majesty, profound musicality, and technical brilliance.

9. Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11, by Frédéric Chopin
The first piece my professor at the Juilliard School assigned to me. It’s a melodically captivating romantic work. It’s soothing to listen to but difficult to play.

10. Concerto No. 2 in A major, by Franz Liszt
A one-movement piece representing the different characteristics of this flamboyant composer: technical brilliance, lyrical melodies, nail-breaking glissandi, and active orchestral interaction.

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Stephanie Shi
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