Accompanied by the hr-Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra), Turkish pianist Fazıl Say plays Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37. Conductor: Gianandrea Noseda. Alte Oper Frankfurt, March 1, 2013. Cadenza written by Fazıl Say. Encore: Black Earth (36:54) is also written by the pianist himself. It is inspired by Kara Toprak (literally means the black earth), a song by Aşık Veysel (October 25, 1894 – March 21, 1973), a Turkish minstrel and highly regarded poet of the Turkish folk literature.
As is standard for Classical/Romantic-era concertos, the work is in three movements:
- Allegro con brio. This movement is known to make forceful use of the theme (direct and indirect) throughout.
- Orchestral exposition: In the orchestral exposition, the theme is introduced by the strings, and used throughout the movement. It is developed several times. In the third section (second subject), the clarinet and violin 1 introduce the second main theme, which is in the relative major key, E-flat major.
- Second exposition: The piano enters with an ascending scale motif. The structure of the exposition in the piano solo is similar to that of the orchestral exposition.
- Development: The piano enters, playing similar scales used in the beginning of the second exposition, this time in D major rather than C minor. The music is generally quiet.
- Recapitulation: The orchestra restates the theme in fortissimo, with the wind instruments responding by building up a minor ninth chord as in the exposition. For the return of the second subject, Beethoven modulates to the tonic major, C major. A dark transition to the cadenza occurs, immediately switching from C major to C minor.
- Cadenza: Beethoven wrote one cadenza for this movement. The cadenza Beethoven wrote is at times stormy and ends on a series of trills that calm down to pianissimo. Many other composers and pianists have written alternative cadenzas.
- Coda: Beethoven subverts the expectation of a return to the tonic at the end of the cadenza by prolonging the final trill and eventually arriving on a dominant seventh. The piano plays a series of arpeggios before the music settles into the home key of C minor. Then the music intensifies before a full tutti occurs, followed by the piano playing descending arpeggios, the ascending scale from the second exposition, and finally a resolute ending on C.
- Largo. The second movement is in the key of E major, in this context a key relatively remote from the concerto’s opening key of C minor (another example being Brahms’s first symphony.). If the movement adhered to traditional form, its key would be E-flat major (the relative key) or A-flat major (the submediant key). The movement opens with the solo piano and the opening is marked with detailed pedalling instructions.
- Rondo. Allegro. The finale is in sonata rondo form. The movement begins in C minor with an agitated theme played only by the piano. The movement ends with a C major coda marked presto.
Beethoven composed this work in 1799-1800, and introduced it at Vienna on April 5, 1803. The first sketches go back to 1797 – after he’d composed the B flat Piano Concerto (published as No. 2), but before composition of the C major Concerto (in 1798, published as No. 1). Although Beethoven played the first performance of No. 3 in 1803 from a short score – no one was going to steal it from him! – he’d actually completed the music prior to April 1800, apart from a few last-minute adjustments. In other words, before he wrote the Second Symphony (Op. 36), the Moonlight Piano Sonata (Op. 27/2), or the Op. 31 triptych for keyboard.