Saturday, December 8, 2012

In This Contest The Crowd is The Winner

I first want to wish Tales Jewish readers a Happy Chanukah as tonight marks day one of the eight day holiday. I also wish my many Christian readers a very Merry and Blessed Christmas.

Note: I have discussed this topic on the concerto before and may be repeating information for some of my long time readers of the classical weekends on the Tales.  I hope those readers will forgive me for some repetition, but Tales realizes there has been many new readers of the classical weekends and I hope this can be informative to them.  _______________________________________________________________
My favorite form of classical music is the concerto.  Concerto means contest or competition and is a piece of music which uses the entire symphony orchestra, along with a soloist who will be positioned in front of the orchestra at a concert.  So, using the word concerto is meant to connote a competition between the orchestra and the soloist; with sometimes the orchestra in charge and sometimes the soloist taking charge. In reality, most of the time the soloist and orchestra are working together to make beautiful music.

There have been concertos written for all the instruments. By far the most concertos have been written for the piano with the violin a close second.  Fewer have been written for the trumpet [horn], flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon; and even fewer for the viola, cello and double bass.

Mozart composed 27 piano concertos [with #9 and #s 20-27 his best in my opinion]. Beethoven wrote 5 piano concertos.  All of them are fabulous and I consider #1, 3 and 5 to be his greatest. Beethoven's "Emperor" [his 5th] is considered by many to be the greatest piano concerto ever. Along with Mozart and Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Grieg and Tchaikovsky have all composed great piano concertos. 

While there are many great violin concertos, to me the top four are the Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Brahms.  In my opinion these four concertos are in a class by themselves.  If I was pinned down to pick my favorite of the four it would be the Tchaikovsky violin concerto.

All of the other instruments have had good concertos written for their instruments, but I think it is fair to say there haven't been the number of great ones as there have been for the piano and violin.  Haydn's trumpet concerto, Mozart's clarinet concerto and Dvorak's cello concerto stick out as some of the best in the other instruments.

When you go to a classical music concert with a concerto on the program, be sure and watch the special relationship between the soloist and conductor. No matter how long the tutti introduction by the orchestra before the soloist enters, the conductor before beginning the concerto will make sure the soloist is completely comfortable and ready to go.  Then as the concerto is playing, you will see an occasional glance or a smile or a nod by the soloist and conductor as they make sure they are on the same page.  Especially look for interaction between the soloist and conductor if there is a cadenza-near the end of the cadenza the conductor will usually look directly at the soloist to make sure he brings back in the orchestra at the exact appropriate moment.

Here is what I consider the greatest piano concerto ever written: the Beethoven #5 in E Flat Major, known as the Emperor.  The first movement, Allegro, from 0:31-21:06 is one of the longest movements in the piano concerto repertoire. This developed movement is very thoughtful and at the same time powerful music. This is one of the greatest piano concerto movements ever written, in my opinion.  Following the cadenza [near the end of the movement], the first movement ends with an extended coda.   The second movement, Adagio un poco mosso,  begins at 21:23 and it is one of the most beautiful romantic movements ever composed. This is deeply moving and riveting.  If you only have the time to listen to part of this concerto please listen to the wonderful 2nd movement.  Following the second movement is a bridge that leads to the third movement [i.e., there is no break between the second and third movement]  The third movement, Rondo:Allegro ma non troppo, that begins after the bridge at the 30:33 mark is an exciting, energetic rondo to finish this awesome concerto.  A great finish to this giant of piano concertos.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy this concerto-a contest where you the listener are the winner.

L.V. Beethoven:Piano Concerto #5 in E Flat Major,  "The Emperor":


Unknown said...

Thank you so much, Michael!! Brilliant!! Listening & Enjoying NOW!! God bless & Happy Chanukah!! :-)) By the way, my 3rd CD, "I Sing for America," just hit my shop @Etsy!! :-))

Big Mike said...

Thanks Balladeer.