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Beethoven and the Piano

200 years after the composition of Beethoven’s five piano concertos, they’re still the giants in the repertoire.  Join us for a concerto a day, plus some of his more intimate works for the instrument.

 
Program 1

At age 13, Ludwig Van Beethoven wrote his first piano sonata, which was published when he was 24-years-old. Bill samples Beethoven's first concerto, named as his second due to publishing order, and demonstrates Bill's favorite passage of the piece. He describes the passage as one that provides evidence that composers could become poetic and prophetic. Then Bill samples one of Beethoven's most famous pieces, "Pathetique Sonate," as the music that brought him so much satisfaction that he did not write in that style again. 

Beethoven: Piano Sonata Op. 2 No. 1, I & II
Perahia, p.
Sony 64397
3:55, 4:40
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Beethoven: Concerto for Piano No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 19
Cleveland Orchestra/Szell; Fleisher, p.
CBS 42445
27:28, 1:14
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Beethoven: Sonata for Piano No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, Pathétique, I 
Ashkenazy, p.
Lon 410260
8:25
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Beethoven: Sonata for Piano No. 9 in E major, Op. 14 No. 1, I
Gould, p.
Sony 51638
3:13
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Program 2

The beginning of the nineteenth century marked the shift from the "rational" to the "emotional," the shift from the age of Enlightenment to the age of Romanticism. The clarity, balance, and reason that can be heard with Enlightenment-age composers such as Mozarrt and Haydn is present in much of Beethoven's earlier piano works such as the Piano Concerto No. 1 and the Piano Sonata No. 11. However, Beethoven is responsible for guiding the shift to the personal, emotive quality of Romantic-era music, and the tension between these two differing ideologies courses through his compositions after the turn of the century.

Beethoven: Sonata No. 11 in B-flat, Op. 22, III
Ohlsson, p.
Arab 6773
3:29, :56
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Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Concertgebouw/Wallberg; Argerich, p.
EMI 56974
:30, :25, 34:08
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Beethoven: Sonata for Piano No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27 No 2, Moonlight, I & III
Goode, p.
None 79328
12:28
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Program 3

The third installment of Beethoven's piano works begins with the third piano concerto, which marked a significant departure from his previous works, much like his groundbreaking third symphony which was published around the same date. This concerto is notable for the deeply contrasting styles of the first and second movements, especially in the harmonic language employed. Bill equates the slow second movement to a poetic journey, with unexpected tonality giving way to deep emotional expression.

Beethoven: Concerto for Piano No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37
Royal Concertgebouw/ Haitink; Perahia, p.
CBS 39814
35:25, :44
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Beethoven: Sonata for Piano No. 21 in C major, Op. 53, Waldstein, I & III (excerpt)
Brendel, p.
Phil 412575
11:13, 4:07
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Program 4

Bill examines the"Appasionata," and the fourth concerto, discussing how the themes Beethoven composed during this time were usually quite simplistic. And yet, they allowed for incredible development using rhythmic repetition and variation. The fourth concerto marks a departure from the traditional "double exposition" common in previous concertos, where the piano entrance comes after an extended orchestral introduction. Here, the piano opens the piece to dramatic effect.

Beethoven: Sonata for Piano No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57, Appassionata, I
Ashkenazy, p.
Lon 425838
9:30
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Beethoven: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58
CSO/Levine; Brendel, p.
Phil 456045
32:13
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Beethoven: Sonata for Piano No. 24 in F-sharp major, Op. 78, I
Pommier, p.
Apex 48994
7:40
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Program 5

This final installment begins with a piano transcription of Beethoven's D Major Violin Concerto, and then onto the monumental "Emperor" concerto.

Beethoven: Concerto for Piano No. 6 in D major, Op. 61, III
Sinfonia Varsovia/Menuhin; Duchable, p.
EMI 56875
10:26
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Beethoven: Concerto for Piano No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73, Emperor
Berlin Phil/Leitner; Kempff, p.
DG 447402
38:20
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Beethoven: Sonata for Piano No. 21 in C major, Op. 53, Waldstein, II
Brendel, p.
Phil 412575
3:48
Purchase

 

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