We look forward to performing Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto featuring pianist Marian Lee this coming Saturday, November 6, 7:30pm, at Sterling High School. Please enjoy the following program notes about this piece. Reminder, we are offering a bus that will pick up in Clinton, Fulton, and Morrison, call 563-219-8084 for reservations.

BEETHOVEN –Piano Concerto No. 3 IN C minor, op. 37

     Beethoven’s early fame came not only from his compositions, but his brilliance as a pianist.  Arriving in Vienna at age 22, he displaced the reigning pianists of Vienna’s society, even engaging in piano duels. One of his defeated rivals exclaimed, “Ah, Beethoven is no man, he is the devil. He will play us all to death.” His five piano concerti were written not only as examples of his musical thought and innovation, but as vehicles for his own virtuosity. Due to his rapidly failing health, he was only able to perform the first four.

     Although Beethoven moved to Vienna to study with Haydn, his lessons were few and unproductive. Still venerating Haydn’s works, Beethoven essentially adhered to the classical structure, yet infused his own compositions with Mozart’s melodies, rhythms and phrasings. Professionally, things were going well at this time and his work on the third piano concerto was spread over 3 years and not transcribed for another year. At the concerto’s debut, Beethoven may have completed the solo part as he played, his score containing only some scribbled and unintelligible notes. 

     His first concerto in a minor key, the Third follows the standard 3-movement structure, but is notable as the first to sound like the mature Beethoven.  Deemed ‘intense, dramatic and inventive,” the concerto begins his departure from tradition. The concerto also marked an important technological advancement in the piano itself, adding keys to stretch the piano’s range which Beethoven used fully.

     An aggressive opening features the orchestra at length before the piano entrance. The initial military, march-like theme moves to a singing melody as the piano reworks its own version of the themes.

     The second atmospheric Largo begins with the piano alone in a hushed, romantic mood.  After a cadenza, the movement dies away until a surprise fortissimo chord. Beethoven innovates with a new kind of slow movement, adding harp-like arpeggios for the piano. 

     The final movement opens with a piano solo in a jaunty gypsy rondo.  The energetic, dancelike coda moves into a concluding Presto, ending in high spirits.

Program notes written by Karin Anderson-Sweet

Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto – Concert Notes
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