Thursday, January 11, 2018

January 13, 1811: Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 was performed for the first time

Last updated August 28, 2018.

Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major (“Emperor”), Op. 73

Ludwig van Beethoven (composer)


Composed: 1809-1811


First Performed: January 13, 1811


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Genre: classical > piano concerto


Parts/Movements:

  1. Allegro
  2. Adagio un poco moto
  3. Rondo, Allegro

Average Duration: 38:40

Review:

This work is often known as the “Emperor Concerto,” so-named by Johann Baptist Cramer, the English publisher of the concerto. WK “There is hardly an adjective that could more aptly evoke the work’s impressive scale and majesty. Despite its considerable technical demands, the ‘Emperor’ Concerto handily transcends the typical role of the concerto as a mere virtuoso vehicle. Indeed, it is virtually symphonic in conception; its E flat major key (the same as that of the ‘Eroica’ Symphony), expansive form, and sometimes martial, always grand, character grant the concerto a place among the defining works in the composer’s heroic vein.” MR

“In the Piano Concerto No. 4, Beethoven made a striking break with convention in commencing the work with a piano solo. In the opening Allegro of No. 5, he takes this idea to an extreme, providing the soloist with an extended cadenza, punctuated by tutti chords from the orchestra, that outlines in miniature the entire 20-minute movement. The main theme is marchlike and assertive; the somewhat more relaxed second theme first appears cloaked in mystery, in a minor-key version that soon gives way to the expected statement in the dominant major. The grandeur of the movement is colored by excursions to remote keys that, however, never fully thwart the powerful forward drive.” MR

This piece was Beethoven’s last completed piano concerto. WK His advanced deafness, which eventually ended his own career as a pianist, may have stirred his “lost interest in concertante works.” MR Although he performed his four previous concertos, he never publicly played this one. MR

It was dedicated to Archduke Rudolf, his patron and pupil. It was first performed in Vienna at the Palace of Prince Joseph Lobkowitz with Rudolf serving as the soloist. A public concert was held in Leipzig at the Gweandhaus on 11/28/1811 with Friedrich Schneider serving as the soloist and Johann Philipp Christian Schulz as the conductor. WK


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