Sunday, July 20, 2008

Concerto nº5 op. 73 in E-flat by Beethoven (1809) named "the Emperor"

Because Mozart has 5 concerts in this list and because today I am in a Beethoven mood I will talk about Beethoven 5th Concerto for piano and orchestra and explain why I think it belongs in this list.

This concerto was composed in 1809/1810 in Vienna and it is the last piano concerto that Beethoven wrote. This concerto is dedicated to Archiduke Rudolf the highest ranked of Beethoven Patrons, one of Beethoven pupils and certainly the one which understood the best the fact that he has dealing with a genius. The relation between the two men always was one of mutual respect even though there are, it is true, several letters from Beethoven to Rudolf with lame excuses for not giving composition lessons previously arranged. Rudolf however understood this "artistic" behavior :-) ...

The period in which this concerto was written was not a easy one for Beethoven. The French army had just invaded for the second time Vienna and most of his friends had left Vienna with the court. Before addressing the work itself just a final word on the "nickname" of the concerto. This was not a name chosen by Beethoven. Knowing Beethoven tastes I suspect that he would not like it at all.

The first movement (Allegro in E Flat Major) of this concerto is profoundly innovator in that it creates a sort of mini-cadenzas (a cadenza is part of the concerto which is played by the soloist without accompaniment by the orchestra - generally a passage technically hard to master). We must also remember that this is the only Piano Concerto that Beethoven did not premiére him self being already completely deaf (the honor was for Carl Czerny one of Beethoven pupils). This may also be an explanation why Beethoven choose to write the cadenzas on the score to prevent pianists to insert their own. You can listen to it in the following videos: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

The second movement is personally one of my favorites movements. At times one would say that we are listening to Chopin, and when talking about piano this is a compliment. On reflexion it is even better then Chopin since we have an orchestration know how that Chopin was not quite capable to achieve. Listen to this movement here.

The third movement which is played without interruption after the end of the second movement is rather exuberant and a clear contrast to the second. Listen to this movement here.

For this concerto I choose to show you an interpretation by Glenn Gould certainly one of the pianists we will be considering for the Ten Best Pianists. The orchestra is the Toronto Symphony directed by Karel Ancerl (also one of the maestros that will certainly be in the list of 10 best conductors). As you will be able to see from comments some of the listeners of these videos complained about the orchestra and even the pianist. Although respecting their opinion I must also say that it is rather unfair to judge some details on these videos as sound quality is far from Hi-Fi and some of the subtleness simply fade away ... so listen to this to have an idea (to see if you like it) but really nothing substitutes a true recording.

Also on this trend I am really sorry that cuts on the videos were made this way (10 minutes is the limit) but really I think the interpretation of Glenn Gould is worth the inconvenience.


NB said...

Glenn Gould's interpretation is, for sure, a great one. He is one of my favorite pianists without any doubt,
but not in Beethoven, and especially in this Concerto. He does several beautiful things, but it's a "unique" interpretation, as it is almost always with Glenn Gould. Not the one I would choose to serve as an example.

Fernando Vasconcelos said...

Well I agree that this interpretation is unique and that are others more conventional. However I do like the way Glenn shows how he feels the music and that´s one of the reasons I choose this. The other is Karel Ancerl and the sad and courageous story of his life, but we will talk about that in a while.
But of course I agree. There are some interpretations of this concerto musically more representative.