Beethoven- Piano Concerto 5 and 15 (Vladar/Capella/Istropo/Wordswo) (Barry Wordsworth/ Capella Istropolitana/ Jeno Jando/ Martin Sauer/ Monika Feszler/ Stefan Vladar) (Naxos: 8.550290)
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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Piano Concerto No.5 in E Flat Major, Op. 73 "Emperor"
Piano Sonata No.15 in D, Op. 28 "Pastoral"
Ludwig van Beethoven made an early reputation for himself as a keyboardplayer. At home he had had irregular and forcible instruction through hisinadequate father, only son of the old Court Kapellmeister to the Archbishop ofCologne and a singer under the same patron. The boy, who showed signs ofneglect in other ways and who certainly failed to distinguish himself at school,had obvious musical talent, and this was ultimately to be fostered by lessonswith the then court organist in Bonn, Christian Gottlob Neefe, whose deputy hebecame. In 1787 Beethoven set out for Vienna, with the support of theArchbishop, a younger son of the Empress, a nobleman who had been preventedfrom an intended military career by a certain weakness in the knees that provedno barrier to ecclesiastical promotion. Beethoven had hoped to study withMozart, but the illness of his mother led to his immediate return, his aimapparently unaccomplished.
By 1791, the year of Mozart's death, Beethoven had already shownconsiderable proficiency as a performer on the newly developing pianoforte, afact of which there is independent evidence in an account of a visit toMergentheim undertaken by the Bonn court musicians. Beethoven was able to hearthe playing of the Abbe Sterkel, a performance of unusual delicacy thatimmediately influenced his own style, and was given a chance to demonstrate hisown virtuosity and his amazing powers of improvisation: By the end of thefollowing year he was once again in Vienna, seeking lessons from Haydn, to befollowed by instruction from the Court Composer Salieri and fromAlbrechtsberger.
Beethoven arrived in the imperial capital with useful introductions toa number of leading families. In particular Count Waldstein, a nobleman eightyears his senior and a friend of the Archbishop, proved immensely helpful, bothin instigating the journey and in providing immediate access to a circle ofconnoisseurs in Vienna. It was not long before Beethoven established himself asa performer of remarkable imagination and skill, a reputation that was to fadewith the onset of deafness at the turn of the century, and a consequentabandonment of public performance and partial isolation from society.
At the age of fourteen Beethoven had attempted his first pianoconcerto, a work that now survives only in a piano score. The concerto that wasto be known as his second piano concerto was probably started in Bonn and wasto be re-written to emerge in published form in 1801, after what seems to havebeen the first performance of the concerto in 1795, followed by furtherrevision.
The last of Beethoven's five piano concertos, popularly but mistakenlyknown as the Emperor Concerto, atleast had imperial connections, and something about it that was both innovativeand martial, a sign of the times. In May, 1809, Vienna was once again underattack from the forces of Napoleon. Haydn, now some years in retirement in thecity, was to die at the end of the month, while most of the leading families,including the imperial family, had taken refuge elsewhere. In October therecame what Beethoven was to describe as a "dead peace", but the yearwas altogether an unsettled one. During the French bombardment Beethoven hadsheltered in the cellar of his unreliable brother Carl Caspar, covering hishead with a pillow against the noise of the cannons. On 12th May, however, thecity surrendered, the French occupation bringing with it hardship tohouseholders, from whom a levy was exacted, coupled with a continued shortageof money and food.
It was in these circumstances that Beethoven, now 39 and increasinglydeaf, worked on his new piano concerto, while spending part of the summercollecting material from various text-books for the instruction of his royal patron Archduke Rudolph. Thework was probably completed in the following year and was given its firstperformance in Leipzig on 28th November, 1811, when the soloist was the Dessaupianist and organ virtuoso Friedrich Schneider. The concerto was later to beplayed in Vienna by Carl Czerny.
The Concerto in E Flat Major, Opus73, dedicated to Archduke Rudolph, has been described by AlfredEinstein as "the apotheosis of the military concept" in the music ofBeethoven, a reference to popular expectations at the time. The martial elementin the work suggests comparison with the EroicaSymphony of 1803, a work that Beethoven conducted at a charityconcert during the French occupation of Vienna in 1809.
The concerto opens with an impressively triumphant piano cadenza, anindication of the scale of what is to come. This is followed by the orchestralannouncement of the principal theme, one of the expectedly strong character, tobe miraculously extended by the soloist in a movement of imperial proportions.
The slow movement, in B Major, an unexpected key that has already beensuggested indirectly in the first movement, is introduced by the strings, witha theme of great beauty that is only later to re-appear in aversion by thesoloist. It is the latter who hints at what is to come, before launching intothe final rondo, music ofcharacteristic ebullience and necessary contrast, providing a brilliantconclusion of sufficient proportion to sustain what has gone before.
The 32 numbered piano sonatas of Beethoven provide a remarkableconspectus of his own style, ranging from the earliest, under the influence ofHaydn, to whom they are dedicated, to the last, which explore a new world intheir bold complexity. To those immediately following Beethoven, the sonatas,like the nine symphonies, offered both a challenge, in some ways a guide, and,at the same time, a field for varied speculation in a search for literarysources or parallels.
The so-called Pastoral Sonata, Opus28 in D major, was completed in 1801 and published the followingyear, with a dedication to Monsieur Joseph Noble de Sonnenfels, former adviserto the Emperor Joseph II, a free-mason, Jewish by birth, and a leading figurein the Enlightenment from whom Beethoven might expect no particular materialadvantage. The title was, as so often, not Beethoven's, although the reason forit is obvious enough from the gentle opening of the first movement. Presumablya similar association of ideas led Arnold Schering to propose a literary sourcein Shakespeare's Winter's Tale.
There is a steady march in the slow movement, a scherzo and trio and a finalrondo based on the rocking rhythm of its principal theme.
The Austrian pianist Stefan Vladar wasborn in 1965 and started piano lessons at the age of six. From 1973 he studiedat the Vienna University for Music and Arts with Renate Kramer-Preisenhammerand Hans Petermandl. After winning a number of awards in piano competitions inAustria, including the first prize in the Rudolf Heydner Piano Competition, hetook the first prize in the 1985 Vienna International Beethoven Competition,the youngest of the 140 competitors.
Stefan Vladar's subsequent career has brought him a busy schedule ofengagements, with performances throughout Europe and appearances in China,Thailand, Japan and Korea, as well as in the United States of America.
Jeno Jando was born at Pecs, in south Hungary , in 1952. He started tolearn the piano when he was seven and later studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academyof Music under Katalin Nemes and Pal Kadosa, be