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Life Arts    H4'ed 6/10/17

Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto, "Emperor," whose Genius is Unparalleled in Music History!

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Of the many performances possible to embed here, I chose this one because of the Video Excellence of the Pianist, the Orchestra, and the Conductor.

With Napoleon's army besieging Vienna, the Austrian Imperial family and all of the court, including Beethoven's pupil, friend, and benefactor, Archduke Rudolph, fled the city. On May 11 the French artillery, which commanded the heights of the surrounding countryside and had penetrated outlying portions of the city proper, was activated.

Beethoven's house stood near the line of fire. Those who could not leave sought shelter underground. Beethoven found a haven in the cellar of his brother's house. Imagine the composer crouching there, with how many other frightened souls, trying to shield his already irreparably damaged ears from the din of volley after volley.

Once the bombardment had ceased and the Austrian forces had surrendered, the occupiers imposed a "residence tax" on the Viennese. The composer, on whom a sufficiently heavy financial burden had been placed by the departure of those who would guarantee his income, described "a city filled with nothing but drums, cannon, marching men, and misery of all sorts."

-Herbert Glass, music critic par excellence, connected to the Orange County Performing Arts Center

Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized in Bonn, Germany, on December 17, 1770, and died in Vienna, Austria, on March 26, 1827 at what would now be considered the very young age of 56.

The Piano Concerto No. 5 in E - major , Op. 73, by Ludwig van Beethoven, is generally referred to as the Emperor Concerto. This was to be his last piano concerto , composed in Vienna between 1809 and 1811; II was dedicated to Archduke Rudolf , Beethoven's friend, patron and pupil. The first performance was on 13 January 1811 at the Palace of Prince Joseph Lobkowitz in Vienna, with Archduke Rudolf as the soloist, followed by a public concert on 28 November 1811 in Leipzig, and the soloist was Schneider. On 12 February 1812, Carl Czerny , another one of Beethoven's students, performed the Viennese premier of this concerto. The name of Emperor for this concerto was not Beethoven's own but was coined by Johann Baptist Cramer , the English publisher of the concerto, who Beethoven regarded as the greatest pianist of that time.

In notes from the Aspen Music Festival on this Concerto:

,blockquote>The Emperor was the last concerto that he was to complete (though he did get rather far advanced with one more essay in the genre in 1815, before breaking off work on it for good). It was composed in the difficult year of 1809, a year that was much taken up with warfare, siege, and bombardments. The French erected a battery on the Spittalberg and began firing on the night of May 11--directly toward Beethoven's apartment, which happened to be in the line of fire. The composer took refuge in the cellar of his brother's house in the Rauhensteingasse, and he spent a miserable night protecting his sensitive ears from further damage by holding a pillow over them.
The Imperial family, including especially the emperor's youngest brother, the Archduke Rudolph, who had already become Beethoven's sole composition student and one of his strongest supporters and closest intimates, fled the city.
One of the compositions of this period, directly expressing Beethoven's feelings for his cultivated patron, the Archduke, was the piano sonata later published as Opus 81a, with the separate movements entitled "Farewell, absence, and return." He composed the Harp Quartet for strings, Opus 74, and completed the grandiose piano concerto published as Opus 73. All three of these works are in the key that possessed Beethoven at the time, E flat major, the same "heroic" key of his earlier Third Symphony.

According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica: "Whatever the origins of the concerto's nickname, it is unlikely to have pleased Beethoven himself, who reconsidered the dedication of his third symphony--initially to have been dedicated to Napoleon--after Bonaparte assumed the title of emperor in 1804."

There is no adjective that could better invoke the work's impressive scale and majesty. Despite its considerable technical demands, the "Emperor" Concerto transcends the typical role of the concerto as only a vehicle for a virtuoso to show off his talents. It is symphonic in conception; its E flat major key, the same as that of the "Eroica" Symphony), its expansive form, and sometimes martial, always grand, character warrant the concerto's accolade among the most important of Beethoven's heroic works.

The Concerto No. 5 is Beethoven's final essay in the concerto genre. Perhaps he lost interest in concertante works because of his advancing deafness, which ended his own career as a pianist. He himself never publicly performed the Concerto No. 5, though he had written his four previous piano concerti for his own use on the concert stage.

Note from the Aspen Music Festival:

The piece was successfully performed in Leipzig in 1810, but Beethoven withheld a Viennese performance for some three years after finishing it, possibly because he hoped that his steadily increasing deafness might abate enough to allow him to take the solo part.

In the Piano Concerto No. 4, Beethoven started the concerto 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 chords from the orchestra, that outlines in miniature the entire 20-minute movement. The main theme is an assertive march; the more relaxed second theme 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.

The lyrical and idyllic second movement, Adagio un poco moto, is one of Beethoven's most tender statements. The piano predominates here, not as a virtuoso, but in a manner and texture that is reminiscent of Chopin's nocturnes.

The Rondo is a movement of jubilant affirmation, shown by the upward moving dance-like main theme. Though the ambitious conceptions of the Concerto remain at the forefront in the Rondo, Beethoven does not shy away from providing the soloist with passages of exceptional brilliance.

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