Piano Concerto No. 1 (Beethoven)

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Piano Concerto in C major
No. 1
by Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven Hornemann.jpg
Beethoven in 1803, six years after he completed the piano concerto, his third attempt in the genre
CatalogueOp. 15
StyleClassical period
DedicationPrincess Anna Louise Barbara Odescalchi
Performed18 December 1795 (1795-12-18): Vienna
Published1801 (1801)
  • (Allegro con brio
  • Largo
  • Rondo. Allegro scherzando)
  • Piano
  • orchestra

Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15, was written in 1795, then revised in 1800. It was possibly first performed by Beethoven at his first public concert in Vienna on 29 March 1795.[1][n 1] It was first published in 1801 in Vienna with dedication to his pupil Princess Anna Louise Barbara Odescalchi (née Countess von Keglević), known to her friends as "Babette".[2]

Although this was Beethoven's first piano concerto to be published, it was actually his third attempt at the genre, following an unpublished piano concerto in E-flat major of 1784 and the Piano Concerto No. 2. The latter was published in 1801 in Leipzig after the Piano Concerto No. 1, but was composed over a period of years, perhaps beginning ca. 1788.


  1. Allegro con brio (C major)
  2. Largo (A-flat major)
  3. Rondo. Allegro scherzando (C major)

As with the Piano Concerto No. 2, this C major concerto reflects Beethoven's assimilation of the styles of Mozart and Haydn, while its abrupt harmonic shifts demonstrate Beethoven's musical personality. It adheres to the concerto variant of sonata form and is scored for solo piano and an orchestra consisting of flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings. The flute, oboes, trumpets, and timpani are tacet during the second movement.

I. Allegro con brio[edit]

Tempo: quarter note = 144

The first movement is in sonata form, but with an added orchestral exposition, a cadenza, and a coda. It has a main theme repeated many times, and there are several subordinate themes. The orchestral exposition changes keys many times, but the second exposition is mainly in G major. The development starts in E-flat major, then modulates to C minor, which ends with an octave glissando. The recapitulation is in C major.

There are three options for the cadenza to this movement, which vary in length and difficulty. The coda is played by the orchestra alone. Performances vary in length from fourteen to eighteen minutes.

II. Largo[edit]

The second movement is in the key of A-flat major, in this context a key relatively remote from the concerto's opening key of C major. If the movement adhered to traditional form, its key would be F major, the subdominant key, or in G major, the dominant key. The clarinets are given an unusually prominent role in this movement, having the melody as often as violins.

Like many slow movements, this movement is in ternary (ABA) form. Its opening A section presents several themes that are then developed in the middle B section.

Typical performances last more than ten minutes

III. Rondo. Allegro scherzando[edit]

The third movement is a seven-part sonata rondo (ABACABA), a traditional third-movement form in classical concerti. The piano states the main theme, which is then repeated by the orchestra. The two B sections (subordinate themes) are in G major and C major respectively. The middle section is in A minor.

Two short cadenzas are indicated by Beethoven in this movement, one just before the final return to the main theme, and another one immediately before the end of the movement, which finishes with a striking dynamic contrast; the piano plays a melody quietly, but the orchestra then ends the movement forcefully.

The movement typically lasts around eight to nine minutes.

Alternative cadenzas[edit]

German pianist Wilhelm Kempff wrote his own cadenzas for both the first and last movements and played these in his various recordings of the work. Canadian pianist Glenn Gould also wrote his own cadenza, which was published by Barger and Barclay, and recorded for EMI in 1996 by Lars Vogt with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Simon Rattle


Year Soloist Conductor Orchestra Label Catalogue number
1958 Glenn Gould Vladimir Golschmann Columbia Symphony Orchestra Columbia Masterworks
1959 Wilhelm Backhaus Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt Vienna Philharmonic Decca
1968 Artur Rubinstein Erich Leinsdorf Boston Symphony Orchestra RCA Victor Red Seal
2019 Boris Giltburg Vasily Petrenko Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Naxos
2020 Elizabeth Sombart Pierre Vallet Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Signum SIGCD614
2020 András Schiff Bernard Haitink Staatskapelle Dresden Warner Classics 9029531753
2020 Stewart Goodyear Andrew Constantine BBC National Orchestra of Wales Orchid Classics ORC100127
2022 Kristian Bezuidenhout Pablo Heras-Casado Freiburger Barockorchester harmonia mundi HMM902412



  1. ^ Evidence is unclear as to whether it was this concerto that was performed on that date or the Piano Concerto no. 2 op. 19 (actually written earlier than no. 1)[1]


  1. ^ a b Kerman, Joseph; Tyson, Alan (2001). "Beethoven, Ludwig van". Grove Music Online (8th ed.). Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ Frederik Federmayer [hu]: Rody starého Prešporka [Families of old Prešporek] (Monada atelier, Bratislava, 2003) ISBN 9788096890606 OCLC 977342024. (in Slovak)

External links[edit]