The very start of this concerto is remarkable - the piano opens softly and unaccompanied
with a 5 bar phrase of the utmost quality, combining rhythmic and melodic interest.
[Only on one occasion had Mozart attempted such a concerto opening (K.271) but the
effect is much less striking]. The orchestra then take up the theme, not in the tonic
key (G major) but a 3rd higher in B major - the effect is magical. The rhythmic cell
of 4 repeated quavers is emphasised throughout the exposition on different instruments.
The second subject is delightful and constantly changes key as it is passed to different
instruments - in the space of 12 bars, the music has flirted with six different keys.
At the end of the piano exposition, there are 4 bars of trills - but instead of the
expected tutti, Beethoven delays this a few bars by presenting a beautiful melody
on the piano. The development is dramatic with powerful piano figurations - there
can be a problem of balance here though as the woodwind struggle to be heard above
so much that is going on in the orchestra and piano. The movement ends triumphantly
with a cascade of scales and arpeggios from the piano. Possibly Liszt was the first
to suggest a programmatic basis for the slow movement, at any rate it is obvious
that a dialogue is taking place between the piano and strings. The movement is scored
for just piano and strings and the strings play in unison a disturbed and striking
theme which is answered by a soothing and tender piano. Gradually the strings are
subdued and the calmness of the piano wins the day. The Rondo picks up the last E
from the slow movement and begins a lively pianissimo theme in the wrong key - C,
only coming round to the tonic G a few bars later. Haydn had done the same in the
'Surprise' symphony and Beethoven began the finale to the Razumovsky quartet no.2
in the same way. In keeping with the rest of this concerto the Rondo is full of striking
inventiveness and originality - it is a thoroughly exhilarating and uplifting experience
VIOLIN CONCERTO in D Op.61
Composed : 1806 Published by Clementi 1808, Dedicated to Stephan Von Breuning, First
Performed 23rd Dec 1806 by Franz Clement.
Beethoven wrote this wonderful concerto (perhaps the greatest of all Violin concertos)
for the virtuoso Franz Clement (26 yr old leader of the orchestra at the Theater
an der Wien) Several revisions were made of the solo part at Clement's suggestion.
At the publisher Clementi's request, Beethoven arranged this concerto for the piano
- he did not change the orchestration, but added a highly original cadenza for piano
The concerto opens with 5 repeated crotchets on the timpani followed by a gentle
melody in the woodwind. The timpani crotchets provide a rhythmic cell that unifies
the whole movement. This rhythmic cell accompanies the glorious second subject -
a tune of divine simplicity, which Beethoven repeats in the minor key ( a favourite
device of Schubert). The soloist enters with a few improvisatory bars taking the
violin to the top of its register to sing out the first theme. In the development
there is a remarkable passage in G minor where the horns repeat the opening rhythmic
cell against some romantic and poignant music for the violin - most soloists usually
drop the tempo here, but no such indication is written in the score. The recapitulation
begins with full orchestra stating the main theme fortissimo. The slow movement is
breathtakingly beautiful and creates an atmosphere of calm and contemplation - again
this movement is often taken slower than the Larghetto marking would imply. Beethoven
asks the soloist to link this movement to the finale with a short cadenza. The rondo
finale is pure joy and begins with the soloist stating the famous theme twice, then
it bursts out in the whole orchestra . There is a fine moment for the Bassoon in
the second episode in the minor , where it has the theme and is accompanied by the
soloist. After the cadenza, the main theme appears in a magical key change in Ab.
The sudden loud and adbrupt ending after a few soft solo violin notes is a delightful
PIANO CONCERTO NO.5 in Eb 'Emperor' Op.73
Date of composition : 1809, Published by Breitkopf and Hartel in Feb 1811, Dedicated
to Archduke Rudolph . First performed Nov 28th 1811 in the Gewandhaus Leipzig - F.Schneider
The 'Emperor' is the grandest and most spectacular of all the concertos and it is
written in Eb - a key often associated with Beethoven's heroic music. e.g 'Eroica'
Symphony. Written during 1809 - this was the year the French bombarded Vienna on
11th-12th May and shortly after (31st May) Haydn died. This is the only one of the
five concertos for piano that Beethoven never performed, due to his increasing deafness.
The first Vienna performance took place with Carl Czerny as soloist on 11th Feb 1812.
The work opens in a striking and highly original manner with a grand cadenza for
the piano punctuated by 3 powerful chords in the orchestra. The main theme is one
of the most positive in any of the concertos. As in the Violin concerto, the second
theme is presented in both the major and minor keys - the contrast in mood is striking.
In the development, the music builds to a powerful climax of chords and octaves in
the piano. There is the briefest of cadenzas, fully written out by Beethoven that
leads into the coda, which is much the longest in any Beethoven concerto and ends
with a powerful and energetic display. The glorious slow movement is fairly brief
as in all the later concertos. In the seemingly unrelated key of Bmajor (enharmonically
Cb - a third below Eb) It opens with muted strings presenting the serene melody.
Then there follows two variations on this theme, the piano accompanies the woodwind
in the second of these. The final note B slips down a semitone to Bb ( the dominant
of Eb) and a short coda leads into the finale by tantalisingly hinting very slowly
at the rondo - then it suddenly bursts into the powerful main theme of the Rondo.
This movement is full of energy and vitality, with a very interesting development
section that passes through many keys. The coda is highly original, with a marvellous
passage for piano and timpani where the pace slows bringing the music to a complete
halt - then there is a sudden and rapid scale passage rising in the piano which leads
into the closing orchestral bars and 3 sudden adbrupt chords.
Apart from the 7 well known Concertos by Beethoven, there were some early attempts
by Beethoven in this genre, dating mainly from his Bonn years
The following are compositions for orchestra and solo instruments completed by Beethoven
in his youth but were not published and laid undiscovered until after his death.
The completed scores have been partially or totally lost, some existing only in the
form of musical fragments.
Piano Concerto in E flat, WoO 4.
Period of composition: 1784.
The music for this piece survives in the form of a hand-written (though unsigned)
32pp manuscript, with corrections by the author. The solo piano part is totally complete
and also includes a piano transcription of the orchestral parts. The orchestral score
itself, for flutes, horns and strings, is lost. This was a time before Beethoven
had heard the likes of Mozart or Haydn, but instead had been exposed to J S Bach,
the Mannheim school and no doubt the many local 'masters' residing around Bonn at
this time. The music was found in 1890 in the archives of the Artaria Fund and was
from there taken to the Berlin State library. It was published in the same year by
Breitkopf und Hartel. Later, the famous Beethoven scholar Willy Hess took to the
task of restoring the orchestral parts based on the piano score material. The result
is an intelligent and disciplined assessment that manages to sound sufficiently 'Beethovenish'
as a whole to be taken seriously. This version was first performed (last movement
only) in 1934 in Oslo. The first performance of the complete concerto was in 1968
at the London Queen Elizabeth Hall. There are numerous recordings of the piece to
be found on CD today.
Despite its early origins the music bristles with originality and contains many touching
moments. The first movement is a substantial Allegro Moderato, and opens with a march
like theme on the flutes and horns that is then taken up by the remainder of the
orchestra. The piano then takes up the theme, which is then followed by a varied
selection of more melodic material. Beethoven's capacity for grand and serious is
evident in the development. The piano part itself is of considerable virtuosity and
the original cadenza survives. Then follows a Larghetto of considerable beauty that
contains some haunting passages. The central episode where the first theme is taken
to dark and unforeseen vistas. The movement is quite unlike the slow movements of
the 1st and 2nd Piano Concertos, indeed in many respects one could say the present
movement is more original than those of these more mature works. The final Rondo
is light hearted and entertaining but which also contains a contrasting intermezzo
in the minor key 'all ungherese'.
Oboe Concerto in F major, Hess 12.
Period of composition: Circa early 1790's.
The first indication of the existence of this piece was found in a letter from Haydn,
then Beethoven's teacher, to the Elector in Bonn. Here Haydn wrote that he was sending
the Elector, amongst other pieces of music by Beethoven, an oboe concerto, as evidence
of his pupil's great potential as a composer. There is also a story relating to the
Concerto manuscript being in the hands of publisher Diabelli after Beethoven's death.
However, the story also relates that the manuscript was destroyed in a fire in Diabelli's
store. Fragments from all three movements were found by Elliot Forbes in the Beethoven
Music Archives in Bonn and are printed in his edition of Thayer's Life of Beethoven.
In 1970 a collection of musical manuscripts by Beethoven, known as the Kafka Sketchbook,
was published by the British Museum. Within this book was found a draft for the second
movement of the Oboe Concerto. As far as this writer is aware, there has been no
reconstruction of the whole concerto, although the complete second movement was written
by Charles Amherst in 1981. I have not seen a recording of this piece.
Given the lack of material available only the vaguest musical outline can be given.
The Bonn fragments reveal an orchestra of two oboes, two bassoons and strings, with
the first movement being Allegro moderato, a slow movement in B flat major and a
final Rondo - Allegretto. Given the 'undynamic' nature of the oboe from a Beethovenian
perspective, one can assume that the music would have been very melodic in content
without too much conflict. For evidence of this from elsewhere one need only look
at Beethoven's other early compositions involving the oboe - the quintet for oboe,
three horns and bassoon Hess 19, and the Trio for Two Oboes and English Horn Op.87.
Violin Concerto in C WoO 5
Period of composition: Circa 1790/92.
Only a 259-measure fragment of the first movement exists in the author's hand. This
fragment reveals an orchestral introduction, a solo passage, a further orchestral
tutti followed by a solo fantasia. It ends with a new transitional theme which has
led to the belief that the movement was actually completed and that the remainder
of the piece has been lost. The fragment is stored in the archives of the Gesellschaft
der Musikfreunde in Vienna.
Romance for Piano, Flute and Bassoon Concertante in E minor, Hess 13.
Period of composition: Circa early 1790's.
All the writer knows regarding this piece is that a fragment of the autograph is
housed in the British Museum.
Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in B flat, WoO6
Period of composition: Circa 1794.
The score for this piece was found among Beethoven's papers after his death and published
by Diabelli and Co. in 1829. The circumstances surrounding the composition of the
piece have been the subject of some debate amongst scholars. The principle argument
suggests that the piece was the original finale to an early incantation of the Concerto
in B flat Op.19 and then rejected upon its revision into the form we know it today.
There is no conclusive evidence for this but it would be unlikely for Beethoven to
compose the Rondo as an independent one-movement piece. The score is incomplete but
was published by Carl Czerny in 1829 who completed the orchestration and, extended
the piano passages and added a cadenza. Czerny's taste for indulging the higher register
if the piano (for which he was criticised by Beethoven) is evident, however, in his
reconstruction. Otherwise, the piece is light, joyful and with no pretensions. There
are numerous recordings of the Rondo available on CD.
Supplied by the Unheard Beethoven Site. Thanks to Mark S. Zimmer and Willem . Performing
edition by Prof. Nicholas Cook.
In late 1814 and early 1815, Beethoven sketched the first movement of a piano concerto.
There are 70 pages of sketches and he even started writing out a full score which
runs as far as the middle of the soloists exposition. The scoring becomes more patchy
as the movement proceeds but it still represents one of the most substantial of the
incomplete works. Beethoven may have abandoned the work as the material is of a Symphonic
nature and not really suited to a piano concerto - the piano part seems merely to
decorate the themes rather than challenge the orchestra in its own right. A reconstruction
of the movement was completed in 1987 by Nicholas Cook and Kelina Kwan - The music
is Beethoven up as far as a point shortly after the 2nd subject in the soloists exposition
(though orchestral and other parts have been added in places).
Composed 1805/6 . Published Aug 1808 by the Bureau d'arts et d'industrie. Dedicated
to Archduke Rudolph. First performed in March 1807 at Lobkowitz palace Vienna (Beethoven
The previous Piano concertos had belonged to Beethoven's first or early period -
with this concerto we are in his 'middle period'. It was written at a time of intense
creativity for Beethoven, with work on the Symphony no.5 and the Opera Fidelio in
progress at the same time. Along with his next and last piano concerto (no.5) it
represents the summit of his achievement in this medium. It is one of his most poetic
works. The technical requirements of the piano part are quite daunting - Beethoven
referred to it himself as being very difficult and it was only performed in Vienna
twice during his lifetime. Beethoven was the soloist on both occasions ! The timpani
and trumpets are not used until the last movement, which is unusual for Beethoven.
TRIPLE CONCERTO in C for Piano, Violin & 'Cello Op.56
Date of composition : 1803-4. Published by Bureau d'Arts et d'industrie 1807. Dedicated
to Prince Lobkowitz.
Written just after the completion of the 'Eroica' Symphony and laid aside whilst
the 'Waldstein' sonata was finished and work on Fidelio begun. The triple concerto
was the first of a number of works Beethoven wrote for his pupil Archduke Rudolph,
and it is fairly certain that he would have played it at its first performance, along
with the violinist Seidler and the 'cellist Anton Kraft who had been Haydn's main
cellist at Esterhaz. Perhaps owing to Beethoven's admiration for Kraft, the 'cello
is given special prominence in this work. It is not known when the first performance
took place, but the first public performance was in May 1808.
The Concerto begins very softly with just the 'cellos and basses and builds up using
a crescendo over a repeated quaver bass - (a favourite device of the Mannheim composers
in the 1750's). The 'cello is the first solo to enter, lightly accompanied by discords
and the effect is quite satisfying. The whole of the soloists exposition is magnificent
with expansive themes and unconventional tonality; the second subject comes not in
the dominant but in the more striking key of A. The development sounds like a piano
trio, but the woodwind accompaniment is not very effective. There is no cadenza,
perhaps Beethoven thought it would be impratical for 3 soloists. The slow movement
is a gem - it is a short theme and variations - very beautiful. The coda leads without
a break into the finale marked 'rondo alla polacca'. It is this movement that has
suffered from most criticism ( particularly the Coda which appears to have been rather
casually written and is not of the quality of the material that preceeds it) - however
there are many fine passages in this movement, particularly the polonaise episode
which anticipates those of Chopin a few years later.
The work opens softly in the strings with a theme of subdued tension which is answered
by the woodwind. Within a few bars, Beethoven plunges the theme triumphantly into
the relative major, where the music stays for the attractive second subject. The
Orchestral exposition ends with three hammerblows on the tonic note C - then the
piano enters dramatically with 3 rising C minor scales and then states the main theme
in powerful octaves. The piano writing in this concerto is technically more difficult
than the earlier concertos although it is more restrained in the development section.
The coda is very interesting and effective with the rhythmic use of the timpani and
the pianist being kept playing till the very end . In the slow movement, as Beethoven
uses a 3/8 time signature, the music looks formidable on the page - as it is covered
in large quantities of hemidemisemiquavers and worse ! The piano opens very softly,
presenting a beautiful theme which after modulating to the dominant, magically and
unexpectedly turns to G major. After the orchestral statement of the theme, Beethoven
breaks new ground in the middle section by using the piano as mere accompaniment
to a bassoon and flute duet. Having chosen the extroadinary key (for a C minor work)
of E major for this movement, in the Rondo Beethoven performs a wonder stroke by
enharmonically using the notes of the last E major chord of the slow movement - he
emphasises the notes B and Ab (the same on the piano as G#) in his Rondo theme. The
mood of this energetic movement contains a certain desperation behind the high spirits.
After the main theme, a new joyful theme appears first on the piano and then in the
orchestra. The middle section is in Ab and a lovely melody is presented on the clarinet
and then taken up by the piano. Beethoven's inventiveness is now in full swing, and
he brings the main theme in as a fugue which leads into another of his enharmonic
masterstrokes - repeated octave Ab quavers are then turned into G# with E in the
bass, changing the Key to E major (same as the slow movement - so he has performed
his original trick in reverse !) - surprise modulations continue almost up to the
end. For the Coda, Beethoven provides a jubilant and rousing conclusion to the concerto
in the major key.
The Concerto opens forte with 1 bar of full orchestra stating the common chord of
Bb in a dotted rhythm figuration - this is followed by a gentle phrase in the violins.
From these opening 4 bars Beethoven constructs most of the material used in the movement.
Like Mozart, he introduces the piano with a few improvisatory bars. Also like Mozart,
he saves his most memorable 2nd subject for the piano exposition. The fine cadenza
for this movement was written much later (1809) . The slow movement opens in the
rhythm Haydn frequently used when setting the words 'Agnus Dei' in his masses - indeed
he also used it in the slow movement of Symphony no.98, a work Beethoven almost certainly
would have known. The practice of the day with slow movements when the theme was
repeated was for the soloist to add their own embellishments and decorations - a
typical example of this is Mozart's A major concerto where there is a passage of
very sparse piano writing - Beethoven however was not prepared to risk other pianists
ruining his music and wrote down exactly what he intended. The final rondo has an
unusual rhythm which may have only evolved during the 1798 revision, for the sketch
books reveal that a tamer rhythm was originally intended. Beethoven may have got
the idea for this more energetic and piquant rhythm from Mozart's Bb concerto (K.595)
where it occurs also in the third movement.
PIANO CONCERTO NO.3 in C minor Op.37
Preliminary sketches : 1797/1800 completed 1800. Published by Bureau d'Arts et d'industrie,
Vienna, 1804. First Performed : 5th April 1803 Theater an Der Wien, Beethoven Soloist.
Dedicated to Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia.
This concerto is another example of a deceptively high opus number owing to Beethoven
delaying publication. At the first performance which included the 1st Symphony, and
the first performances of the Symphony no.2 and the Oratorio 'Christ on the Mount
of Olives' (a mammoth programme by any standards !) - Beethoven played the piano
part largely from memory as it had not yet been fully written out. Beethoven thought
more highly of this concerto than its two predecessors, and it is indeed a superior
work. C minor was a key of particular emotional significance for Beethoven and he
may have had Mozart's great C minor Concerto in mind ( a work he was known to admire
This work is a more positive and impressive achievement than its predecessor. The
First movement starts with a theme of little interest in itself which however is
given impact by being played quietly - a device Beethoven was to use with the opening
of most of his Concertos. The second theme surprises us by being in the remote key
of Eb - but not for long as woodwind chords interrupt the tender, rather feminine
theme. Then Beethoven repeats the same effect a tone higher. After a passage where
the two main themes are combined, a new military style theme is introduced by the
horns and trumpets. The piano now enters with a few soft and gentle bars which lead
into the 2nd exposition. The momentum is increased by a triplet passage in the piano
(left hand) punctuated with off beat accents and then comes a wonderful chromatically
shifting passage for the piano. Near the end of the usual orchestral tutti, Beethoven
employs a favourite device, which he learnt from Haydn, of side stepping key changes,
from G up a semitone to Ab. The 3rd cadenza Beethoven wrote for this movement is
the finest, being full of many surprises -The slow movement is the longest in any
Beethoven concerto. The piano presents the glorious theme which is later taken up
by the clarinet. The piano writing is lyrical and nocturne like and the main theme
appears with more elaborate decorations as the movement progresses. The final Rondo
is really the most succesful movement of the three. Beethoven marks it allegro scherzando
to indicate the humorous nature of the movement. Some of the thematic material was
taken from an earlier piano trio in Eb (1791) that was not intended for publication
- the tranformation is quite miraculous. The music is lively, full of fun and invention,
with startling modulations in places - the music rising by semitones along the lines
of the 'minuet' from the first Symphony. After bringing the music to a virtual stop
with 2 adagio bars, Beethoven suddenly brings the Concerto to a rousing conclusion.
PIANO CONCERTO NO.2 in Bb Op.19
Date of composition : 1794/5 (revised 1798). Published Dec 1801 by Hoffmeister, first
performed Mar 29 1795 at Vienna.(Beethoven soloist) Dedicated to Karl Von Nikelsberg.
Arguably the most Haydnesque of the concertos - the only major Beethoven orchestral
work not to use clarinets, an instrument that Haydn was curiously averse to. Beethoven
may also have used Mozart's last piano concerto (K.595) as a model, as both Concertos
are scored for the same orchestra. Beethoven later described this concerto and the
previous one as 'not among my best compositions' - it is however full of interest
and very enjoyable. Beethoven substanially revised this work for his 1798 Prague
concerts; this is the version that survives today.
This Concerto was actually composed after the Concerto known as no.2 in Bb (Op.19),
and is therefore the 3rd piano concerto in order of composition (taking into account
WoO.4); the confusion arises owing to its being published 9 months earlier than no.2
and consequently receiving a lower Opus number. Beethoven first performed the work
at a concert in Prague (1798). At a later date (1807/8) Beethoven wrote 3 Cadenzas
for this Concerto. The original manuscript is in the Prussian State Library, Berlin.