Overture Magazine - 2015-2016 Season March-April 2016 - Page 23

program notes { TOWSON UNIVERSITY Piano Concerto No. 1 Ludwig van Beethoven When Beethoven arrived in Vienna in November 1792 to study with the great Haydn and win fame as a piano virtuoso, Mozart had been dead for less than a year. In a city mad for pianists, the throne of king of the keyboard was vacant, and Beethoven was quick to fill it. His conquest of Vienna came far more easily and was more lasting than Mozart’s; within a year, he had a host of wealthy noble patrons such as Mozart had only dreamed about, and was the most sought-after soloist in town. His pupil Carl Czerny recalled the spell Beethoven’s powerful virtuosity cast over his audiences: “In whatever company he might chance to be, he knew how to produce such an effect upon every hearer that frequently not an eye remained dry, while many would break out into loud sobs; for there was something wonderful in his expression in addition to the beauty and originality of his ideas and his spirited style of rendering them.” Although Beethoven had come to Vienna to study composition with Haydn, the pairing didn’t work. Haydn was a better composer than teacher and did not know what to make of the youngster he dubbed “the Grand Mogul” for his arrogance and obstinacy. Nevertheless, Beethoven’s reputation as a composer soon began to catch up with his fame as a pianist. Scholars are not absolutely certain when he wrote his First Piano Concerto (actually his second, since Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat was written earlier, but published later), but focus on the year 1795. He likely premiered this concerto at a concert in Vienna on December 18, 1795, organized by Haydn. Movement 1: Beethoven’s first two piano concertos follow the model of Mozart’s, but this one already shows his own stamp in its sprawling scale and combination of boldness and reverie. It is scored for two trumpets and timpani, as well as woodwinds and strings, as was typical for late-18th century compositions in the “brilliant” key of C Major. The very military opening theme begins softly in the strings, but reveals its true character Department of Music when it is repeated fortissimo by the full orchestra. The orchestra also introduces us to the graceful, downward-curving second theme, but we just hear the first part of it as it keeps seeking a way back to C Major. Only when the piano enters will we hear it in its entirety. Much of the piano’s exposition is devoted to glittering, high-speed passagework to show off Beethoven’s virtuosity, but he also displayed his poetic side in some lovely quiet playing toward the end. The development section, begun by solo oboe, also is introspective and quiet. The slow movement is a beautiful rhapsody, which we want to go on forever (as it nearly does). The orchestra is reduced to just strings and the darker winds — clarinets, bassoons, and horns — giving it a special moody coloration. The piano’s long, melancholy melodies, elegantly embellished, introduce a Romantic world that Mozart never quite entered. In the extended coda at the end comes a wonderful, tender duet for the solo clarinet and the piano. The pianist launches the rondo finale with a vivacious, high-spirited rondo theme that is easy to recognize on its many returns. The composer includes a perky dialogue between woodwinds and soloist near the end as well as a quiet passage for soloist and oboe that sets off the boisterous finish all the better. Dr. Eileen M. Hayes, Chairperson Department of Music Comprehensive programs in undergraduate and graduate music studies. towson.edu/music Instrumentation: Flute, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings. Overture and Incidental Music to Egmont Ludwig van Beethoven In the story of the