Piano Concerto No. 5 (Beethoven)

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The Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73, by Ludwig van Beethoven, popularly known as the Emperor Concerto, was his last piano concerto. It was written between 1809 and 1811 in Vienna, and was dedicated to Archduke Rudolf, Beethoven's patron and pupil. The first performance took place on 28 November 1811 at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, the soloist being Friedrich Schneider. In 1812, Carl Czerny, another student of Beethoven's, gave the Vienna debut of this work.

The epithet of Emperor for this concerto was not Beethoven's own but was coined by Johann Baptist Cramer, the English publisher of the concerto.[1] Its duration is approximately forty minutes.

Instrumentation[edit]

The concerto is scored for a solo piano, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in B-flat (clarinet I playing clarinet in A in movement 2; flute II, oboe II, clarinet II, both trumpets, and timpani are tacet during this movement), two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani in E-flat and B-flat, and strings.

Movements[edit]




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The concerto is divided into three movements:

  1. Allegro in E-flat major
  2. Adagio un poco mosso in B major
  3. Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo in E-flat major

As with Beethoven's other concertos from this time period, this work has a relatively long first movement. (At twenty-five minutes, the Violin Concerto has the longest; Piano Concerto Nos. 4 and 5 each have opening movements of about twenty minutes.)

I. Allegro[edit]


\relative c' {
  \override TupletBracket #'stencil = ##f
  \override Score.BarNumber #'stencil = ##f
  \key es \major
  es2~\f es8 \times 2/3 { f16( es d) } es8-^ f-^ |
  g4( es c) bes8. bes16 |
  es2~\sf es8 \times 2/3 { f16( es d) } es8-^ f-^ |
  g4( es c) bes8. bes16 |
  d2\sf es8 r f r |
  g2\sf as4.\sf f8 |
  es4\p
}

Despite its use of simple chords, including a second theme constructed almost entirely out of tonic and dominant notes and chords, the first movement is full of complex thematic transformations. When the piano enters with the first theme, the expository material is repeated with variations, virtuoso figurations, and modified harmonies. The second theme enters in the unusual key of B minor before moving to B major and at last to the expected key of B-flat major several bars later.

Following the opening flourish, the movement follows Beethoven's trademark three-theme sonata structure for a concerto. The orchestral exposition is a typical two-theme sonata exposition, but the second exposition with the piano has a triumphant virtuoso third theme at the end that belongs solely to the solo instrument. Beethoven does this in many of his concertos. The coda at the end of the movement is quite long, and, again typical of Beethoven, uses the open-ended first theme and gives it closure to create a satisfying conclusion.

II. Adagio un poco mosso[edit]


\relative c' {
  \key b \major
  dis2(\p cis4 dis |
  b4 e cis2) |
  fis4 fis( gis ais |
  b4 dis, cis2) |
}

The second movement in B major is, in standard contrast to the first, calm and reflective. It moves into the third movement without interruption when a lone bassoon note B drops a semitone to B-flat, the dominant note to the tonic key E-flat.

III. Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo[edit]


\relative c'' {
  \key es \major
  \time 6/8
  bes8\ff( es) es([ g)] r g16( bes) |
  bes16( es) es4~ es es16( g) |
  f8 r d16( f) es8 r g,16( bes) |
  bes4\trill~ bes16 a bes4
}

The final movement of the concerto is a seven-part rondo form (ABACABA), a typical concerto finale form. The piano begins the movement by playing its main theme, then followed by the full orchestra. The rondo's B-section begins with piano scales, before the orchestra again responds. The C-section is much longer, presenting the theme from the A-section in three different keys before the piano performs a cadenza. Rather than finishing with a strong entrance from the orchestra, however, the trill ending the cadenza dies away until the introductory theme reappears, played first by the piano and then the orchestra. In the last section, the theme undergoes variation before the concerto ends with a short cadenza and robust orchestral response.

Prominent recordings[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Stevenson, Joseph. Johann Baptist Cramer at AllMusic. Retrieved 5 June 2011.

References[edit]

  • Walter Gieseking: Wartime German Radio Recordings, Music & Arts Programs of America, Inc. CD-815, 1994.

External links[edit]