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 13 January 1811 at the Palace of Prince Joseph Lobkowitz in Vienna, with Archduke Rudolf as the soloist, followed by a public concert[citation needed] on 28 November 1811 at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig under conductor Johann Philipp Christian Schulz, the soloist being Friedrich Schneider.[1][2] On 12 February 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.[3] Its duration is approximately forty minutes.

Instrumentation[edit]

The concerto is scored for solo piano, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in B-flat (clarinet I playing clarinet in A in movement 2; flute 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]

The concerto is divided into three movements:

  1. Allegro in E-flat major
  2. Adagio un poco moto[4] in B major
  3. Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo in E-flat major

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
}

The colossal first movement begins with the solo piano unfurling a series of striking virtuosic pronouncements punctuated by mammoth chords from the full orchestra. The vigorous, incessantly-propulsive main theme follows, undergoing complex thematic transformation, with a secondary theme of tonic and dominant notes and chords. 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 extraordinarily 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 three-theme sonata structure for a concerto. The orchestral exposition is a two-theme sonata exposition, but the second exposition with the piano introduces a triumphant, virtuosic third theme that belongs solely to the solo instrument, a trademark of Beethoven's concertos. The uniquely-expansive coda majestically elaborates upon the open-ended first theme, unceasingly building in intensity before relishing in a final climactic arrival at the tonic E-flat Major.

II. Adagio un poco moto[edit]


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

The sublime second movement in B major forms a gorgeous, quiet nocturne for the solo piano, muted strings, and wind instruments that converse with the solo piano. The third movement begins without interruption when a lone bassoon note B drops a semitone to B-flat, the dominant of 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). The solo piano introduces the main theme before the full orchestra affirms the soloist's statement. 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.

Recordings[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Michael Steinberg: The Concerto: A Listener's Guide. Retrieved 4 August 2014
  2. ^ San Francisco Symphony. Retrieved 4 August 2014[dead link]
  3. ^ Stevenson, Joseph. Johann Baptist Cramer at AllMusic. Retrieved 5 June 2011.
  4. ^ Sometimes given mistakenly as "mosso", but the autograph and contemporary sources have "moto".

External links[edit]