Beethoven and the Power of Four Notes

Unknown-20“Long…short, short, short…” This is the spirited little cell that quietly opens  Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto. The entire piece grows from this almost sneaky opening in a way not unlike the famous, ferocious opening four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

As you listen to the first movement, notice all the ways these four notes return. Sometimes they’re hidden or played in quiet pizzicato. At other times you’ll hear the motive in the entire orchestra as a noble proclamation. This motive is tossed and turned throughout the  development section (beginning at 7:06). Then, listen to the way we get back home to the recap, again with these four simple notes (9:27). Along the way, we hear elements that would have shocked the first audiences, like the sudden, far out key change to E-flat major for the second theme (1:18).

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15 was written between 1796 and 1797 and dedicated to the Countess of Bratislava. Beethoven gave the first performance on a piano tuned a half step too low (He transposed the entire concerto to C-sharp on sight)!

Here is pianist Evgeny Kissin and the London Symphony with Sir Colin Davis:

  1. Allegro con brio 0:00
  2. Largo 14:32
  3. Rondo. Allegro scherzando 25:09

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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