Friday, December 12, 2008

Beethoven, Day 1

For the first day of this year's countdown to Beethoven's Birthday, we're grooving to the Piano Concerto #1.

Now last year we did the nine symphonies, pieces I've listened to both passively and actively all my life and which I know deep in my bones. These piano concerti, though -- I haven't listened to them nearly so much, so I don't have anything like the emotional connections that I have with the symphonies. I don't have a lot to SAY about them, necessarily. We're pretty much just listening together.

What I hear in the first concerto is another example of Beethoven's asteroid-like impact on the Haydn-Mozart Classical style. The style is still recognizable here, but it is rendered at a mighty scale. Beethoven's big dynamic shifts and surprising harmonic changes are much in evidence here, as are his relatively large orchestra and the simple length of the piece.

About the time where you would expect the first movement of a Classical concerto to wrap up, there's a false ending followed by a long slow section before things speed up again for the end of the movement. In other words, the first movement alone could reasonably pass as a Classical piano concerto!

The third movement is a rollicking number played first on the piano and then in the orchestra. It's a pretty feel-good conclusion, energetic, unchallenging, and with a memorable main theme


Jennifer said...

Oh, whew! I thought I'd missed this--wonder why I thought last week was the 12th? Wishful thinking, perhaps (getting closer to being done with the work). Now I'm downloading the concerti. I was thinking about it anyhow, but I think the graphic sold me on it. How can you not like somebody who composes like that?

If it were Mozart, I'd go plunk 'em out on the piano for a while, but I don't think I have Beethoven's piano music. (Perhaps I should add that this is probably just as well.)

(Actually, as I just began listening, I was confused by the total lack of "piano" amid all the concertiness and had to make sure I wasn't accidentally listening to the wrong piece, but I've found some piano now.)

Unknown said...

How could I have forgotten about Beethoven Birthday?! I loved this last year! I am late to the game, but on board! I just heard a tremendous performance of this piece when I was in NYC the other weekend, by the Dresden Staatskapelle conducted by Fabio Luisi, with Rudolf Buchbinder. It was tremendous.