Friday, January 22, 2021

Beethoven Makes This Second His First

This post [with  new videos] was first published in May of 2014.

Ludwig Van Beethoven [1770-1827] 
The great late Classical/early Romantic era composer, Ludwig Van Beethoven, composed 5 great piano concerti.  I think there is a consensus that his 5th piano concerto "The Emperor", is his best, and one of the greatest piano concertos ever written.  While it is hard to choose because they are all so good and I love them all, I think I would pick his piano concerto #1 as my second favorite of his five concerti.

Note-Update: Classical music lovers all have their favorites. For example, in the comment section, my friend Jim Denton, cellist for the Houston Symphony Orchestra, said his favorite concerto from Beethoven is the fourth: "For me and many of my colleagues, nothing comes close to Beethoven's fourth piano concerto for spirituality. That concerto touches me in a place that words simply can't. It's in a whole different class then the emperor." 

If one listens to Beethoven's first piano concerto, and then his second piano concerto, you might think it is odd that it seems like his first concerto seems a little more substantive and developed than the second.  Don't get me wrong, the second is a great playful, happy concerto with some great melodies.  It is a good piano concerto, but you might think that this would have been his first piano concerto he composed and the more substantive work labeled number one as his second.

That is actually the case.  Beethoven's second concerto was actually the first one he composed.  The concerto named #1 was actually composed after his piano concerto #2.  The reason it is called his first concerto is because in classical music, it is not the time that the piece was composed that determines the number, but when it is published.  Since the second one he composed was published first, it is called his first piano concerto.

Beethoven's piano concerto #1 is in the bright key of C Major with three movements: 1. Allegro con brio,  2. Largo,  and 3. Rondo: Allegro Scherzando

In the opening movement there is a long tutti introduction of almost 3 minutes before the soloist enters.

While there is a long tutti to open the concerto, the 
Beethoven cadenza that is usually played for the first movement is even longer and it is one of the longest cadenzas you will ever hear - almost 5 minutes from 12:40-17:25.  The cadenza used in the third movement is a much shorter one that begins about 36:55. 

In this video the soloist virtuoso pianist Krystian Zimerman also leads the Wiener Philharmoniker in this great Beethoven piano concerto.  The pensive largo movement begins at the 17:52 mark and the upbeat playful final movement rondo begins at the 30:30 mark.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy this great Beethoven Piano Concerto [one of my favorite of all piano concerti] that he composed second but it is labeled as his #1 piano concerto.

L.V. Beethoven: Piano Concerto #1 in C Major:

As an added bonus here is the piano concerto composed first but published second, his sunny, delightful concerto #2, scored in B Flat Major with 3 movements: 1. Allegro con brio, 2. Adagio, and 3. Rondo: Molto Allegro.  The soloist in this video is "a young" Vladimir Ashkenazy.

L.V. Beethoven: Piano Concerto #2 in B Flat Major:


Pamela said...

As is the case with some other well-known concertos , the Beethoven "Emperor", unfortunately is overplayed. I so enjoy his "1st", so thank you for your blog.

Jim said...

For me and many of my colleagues, nothing comes close to Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto for spirituality. That concerto touches me in a place that words simply can't. It's in a whole different class than the Emperor.

Big Mike said...

Thanks Pamela and Jim- Yes we saw the 4th not to long ago and I remember at the prelude pre concert talk they have at Jones Hall the speaker said the same thing about Beethoven's fourth piano concerto.
Thanks for great comments Pamela and Jim.

Unknown said...

Man who will live on forever even after the Universe disappears! He'll always be in my heart even after I am no longer alive! Ludwig, you are my true love!

Big Mike said...

Love you passion, CB! :-))