BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 1 / Rondo, WoO 6 (Barry Wordsworth/ Capella Istropolitana/ Martin Sauer/ Stefan Vladar) (Naxos: 8.550190)
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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Piano Concerto No.1 in C Major, Opus 15
Rondo in B Flat Major, WoO 6
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn inDecember, 1770, the son of Johann van Beethoven, a singer in the service of theArchbishop of Cologne, and the grandson of Ludwig van Beethoven, Kapellmeisterto the same patron, who died in 1773, but whose distinction lived on in thefamily, the possible cause of Johann van Beethoven's professional and parentalinadequacy, his son finally forced to assume responsibility for his two youngerbrothers, a task he was to continue to discharge in a characteristicallyeccentric manner.
At home Beethoven had received erraticpractical training in music, but was able to follow a more consistent course ofstudy from 1781 with the court organist Neefe, whose unpaid deputy he became.
In 1784 he entered the paid service of the Archbishop as deputy court organistand playing the cembalo or the viola in the court orchestra, as occasiondemanded. In 1788 he was sent to Vienna, where he hoped to study with Mozart,but was recalled to Bonn by news of his mother's final illness. Four yearslater he went to Vienna once more, this time to study with Haydn. He remainedthere for the rest of his life.
Beethoven established himself in Viennaat first as a virtuoso keyboard-player, his virtuosity including improvisationat the keyboard and composition. From Albrechtsberger he took lessons incounterpoint and from the Court Composer Salieri in vocal and dramatic setting,but he claimed to find little help in his lessons from Haydn. Armed withsuitable introductions, he was able to make influential friends among thearistocracy and it was with their support that he continued his career inVienna, even when increasing deafness made performance at first difficult andeventually impossible.
It is a tribute to the discernment ofBeethoven's patrons that they perceived his genius, in spite of his uncouthnessand increasing eccentricities of character, in the face of which they exercisedconsiderable restraint and generosity. In Vienna he lived through turbulenttimes, through the years of Napoleonic conquests and into the repressive age ofMetternich. He died in March, 1827, his death the occasion for public mourningin Vienna at the passing of a long familiar figure whose like the city was notto see again.
Beethoven wrote his first piano concertoin 1784, at the age of fourteen and had attempted a violin concerto before hefinally left Bonn. In Vienna he was to publish five piano concertos, the first,published as No.2, completed in a revised version in 1795 and the fifth, theso-called Emperor Concerto, published in 1811. The first decade of thecentury also saw the composition of the D major Violin Concerto, the TripleConcerto and the Choral Fantasia.
The Rondo in B Flat Major, WoO 6,was written some time before 1794 and was intended as the final movement of theconcerto published as No.2 in 1801, but probably first sketched in Bonn. It waspublished after the composer's death, in 1829, the solo part completed by CarlCzerny.
The Piano Concerto No.1 in C Major
was completed in 1795 and intended for the composer's own use. A revisedversion was published in 1801 with a dedication to Barbara von Keglevich, whothat year had married Prince Odescalchi and moved to Pressburg (the modernBratislava). Scored for an orchestra that includes clarinets, trumpets anddrums, it opens with a sparkling first movement, leading to an A flat majorLargo of particular beauty. Beethoven's pupil Ferdinand Ries regarded thecomposer's own performance of the finale as freakish, although others haverecently attempted to follow the composer's private suggestion that notesshould be added to the principal rondo theme to impart brilliance to it.
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 International Beethoven Competition, theyoungest of the 140 competitors.
Stefan Vladar's subsequent career hasbrought him a busy schedule of engagements, with performances throughout Europeand appearances in China, Thailand, Japan and Korea, as well as in the UnitedStates of America.
The Capella Istropolitana was founded in1983 by members of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, at first as a chamberorchestra and then as an orchestra large enough to tackle the standardclassical repertoire. Based in Bratislava, its name drawn from the ancient namestill preserved in the Academia Istropolitana, the historic universityestablished in the Slovak and one-time Hungarian capital by Matthias Corvinus,the orchestra works principally in the recording studio. Recordings by theorchestra on the Naxos label include The Best of Baroque Music, Bach'sBrandenburg Concertos, fifteen each of Mozart's and Haydn's symphonies as wellas works by Handel, Vivaldi and Telemann.
Barry Wordsworth's career has beendominated by his work for the Royal Ballet which started when he played thesolo part in Frank Martin's Harpsichord Concerto, a score used by Sir KennethMacMillan for his ballet, Las Hermanas. In 1973 he became Assistant Conductorof the Royal Ballet's Touring Orchestra and in 1974 Principal Conductor ofSadlers Wells Royal Ballet. He made his debut at Covent Garden conductingMacMillan's Manon in 1975 and since then has conducted there frequently. He hastoured extensively with the Royal Ballet. conducting orchestras in New Zealand.
Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea. Canada and Australia, where he has been guestconductor for Australian Ballet.
In 1987 while retaining his connectionwith both Royal Ballet companies as guest conductor, Barry Wordsworth alsoworked with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. the Royal Philharmonic,the Philharmonia, the Ulster Orchestra. the BBC Concert and the LondonPhilharmonic Orchestras. He has also continued to work with New Sadlers WellsOpera, with whom he has recorded excerpts from Kalman's Countess Maritza andLehar's The Count of Luxembourg and The Merry Widow. For the Naxos labelWordsworth recorded a number of Mozart and Haydn symphonies, works by Smetanaand Dvorak and for the Marco Polo label works by Bax.