Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Beethoven, Day 5

Happy Beethoven's Baptismal Day! And Hypothetically Possible Birthday! In any event, it's the last day of this year's Beethoven Countdown, the day we cover the mighty "Emperor" Concerto, the Piano Concerto #5.

Well, what can I say about the "Emperor"? First, I guess I'll take the unusual step of second-guessing the big guy and say that I don't like the introduction. Big chords punctuated with frilly piano runs, the whole thing seems a bit overblown and corny. Fortunately, it doesn't last very long, and soon we are off and running with a great, propulsive, rocking theme in the orchestra.

That theme is going to get elaborated a LOT -- at around twenty-one minutes long, the first movement of the Emperor is considerably longer than the complete concertos of, say, Beethoven's one-time teacher Haydn. Beethoven had lots of fans during his lifetime, to be sure, but there were also plenty of people who thought his works were not only jarring, but too damn long.

The slow movement is, well, pretty. I like it. There is a repeating passage that sounds a bit like "There's a Place for Us," and although obviously if there was any influencing going on it was Beethoven influencing Leonard Bernstein rather than the other way around, the coincidence lends some instant familiarity for the modern listener.

The final movement hits us with another contagious theme, a rising melody with a sweet little stutter-step in it. It feels at once a bit old-fashioned and rockin', and also pretty magnificent, which is not at all bad for a piece of music that is 199 years old.

Thanks for following along with this year's Beethoven Countdown!


Jenners said...

Hey--be sure to check out my personal blog today -- your blogs are prominently featured! Merry Christmas!

d said...

andrew sullivan says it's beethoven's birthday also. so, you know, it must be true. it andrew sullivan says it.

Anonymous said...

I don't find the intro corny. Certainly not like Kansas in August. I love the whole concerto, the best in my unabbreviated opinion. That's what I'm hummin' about.