Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto: An Exuberant and Daring Conception

Beethoven was a newcomer to Vienna when, in 1795, he completed the Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major. It is bold music which was designed to showcase the young composer’s skills as one of the preeminent virtuoso pianists of the time. Although the C major Concerto was the first to be published (in 1801), its composition was preceded by the piece we now know as Piano Concerto No. 2. While the Second Concerto …

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Beethoven’s “The Creatures of Prometheus” Overture: Music for a Ballet

In 1800, around the time of the premiere of his First Symphony, the 29-year-old Ludwig van Beethoven received a commission to write music for a ballet based on the Prometheus myth. Beethoven’s collaborator and librettist was the the Italian choreographer and dancer, Salvatore Viganò. Although Viganò usually composed the music for his ballets himself, this occasion was far too important. The Creatures of Prometheus, a “heroic and allegorical ballet” in two acts, would be …

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Beethoven’s String Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 3: The Apex of a Genre

In November of 1792, the young Ludwig van Beethoven left Bonn, the provincial city of his birth, to resettle in glittering, cosmopolitan Vienna. Two years after this momentous move, Beethoven completed the String Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 3. The piece marked the 24-year-old composer’s first foray into the genre. A successor to the Baroque trio sonata, the string trio (violin, viola, cello) was a popular form in the eighteenth century, when …

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Beethoven’s “Triple Concerto”: Chamber Music on a Grand Scale

Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C Major, Op. 56 is a rare musical hybrid. Commonly known as the Triple Concerto, it playfully and exuberantly combines elements of the piano trio with the concerto. With this music, Beethoven achieved a genre-bending feat which was virtually unprecedented at the time, and has not been attempted by any significant composer since. While the sinfonia concertante features a dialogue between individual solo instruments and the …

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Remembering Lars Vogt

Lars Vogt, the renowned German pianist and conductor, passed away on Monday, September 5. He was 51. In March of 2021, Vogt was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in his throat and liver. Born in the town of Düren in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, Vogt rose to prominence after winning second prize at the 1990 Leeds International Piano Competition. He went on to perform as a soloist with the world’s greatest orchestras. He …

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Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” Cycle: String Quartet No. 9 in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3

In 1805, Count Andreas Razumovsky, the Russian ambassador to Vienna, commissioned Beethoven to write three string quartets. At the time, chamber music was often conceived for the entertainment of aristocratic amateurs. In contrast, Razumovsky’s commission would be premiered by the Schuppanzigh Quartet, a group of highly skilled musicians who formed what was likely the first professional string quartet. The result was groundbreaking music which moved the string quartet decisively into the concert hall. …

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Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Sixth Symphony: A Communion With Nature

Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies were completed in the same year of 1808, and were premiered at the same under-rehearsed, four-hour-long concert. Yet, the two works stand as diametric opposites. The Fifth Symphony takes a dynamic journey towards transcendence. It is filled with ferocious, crackling energy and a sense of heroic struggle. Set in the bucolic key of F major, the quieter Sixth Symphony inhabits the stable, enduring world of nature. Beethoven gave it the subtitle, …

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