Accompanied by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Wiener Philharmoniker), the Polish classical pianist Krystian Zimerman plays Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37. Conductor: Leonard Bernstein.

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 (Krystian Zimerman)

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3

Towards the end of the 19th century, the concerto genre had reached a flourishing stage after Mozart had thoroughly contributed to the foundation of the genre. In the first concerts, as well as in the other genres (symphonies, sonatas, quartets) Mozart’s and Haydn’s influence is evident.

The characteristics of Beethoven’s sensibility were to become evident starting with his third piano concerto. In the following concerts, a new relationship is established between the piano as an unaccompanied instrument and the orchestra that covers a greater role, not being reduced to the simple function of accompanying the soloist.

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 concerto was composed in 1800 and was first performed on 5 April 1803, and as was the custom with most of Beethoven’s works for piano, the composer himself performed as soloist on the night of the premiere.

Piano Concerto No. 3 was premiered alongside the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives and the Symphony No. 2 and, never one known for his organizational skills, Beethoven performed most of the concerto from memory – not through choice, but because he’d run out of time to transcribe the piano part!

The third piano concerto is the first one to use a minor key and the first one that clearly separates Beethoven from classical music. In this concerto, the composer produced a more varied and dynamic work rich in the turbulent emotions for which he was becoming known. The piano style was suddenly less ornate, more muscular as if he’d decided that he didn’t have to conform to established standards and had immediately set about challenging the capabilities of the then-current instruments.

The concerto is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B-flat, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in E-flat, 2 trumpets in C, timpani, strings, and piano soloist.

As is standard for Classical/Romantic-era concertos, the work is in three movements:

  1. Allegro con brio. The first movement is constructed like a sonata and the themes, bringing a feeling of force and confidence, are first presented by the orchestra, with vigorous, masculine tonalities. The second lyrical theme is in powerful contrast with the first one.
  2. Largo. The second movement introduces a musical theme that expresses re-position and meditation. 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 the 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 pedaling instructions.
  3. Rondo. Allegro. The finale of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 is in sonata rondo form and has a joyful and gracious theme, perfect for the closure of the opera. It begins in C minor with an agitated theme played only by the piano. The movement ends with a C major coda marked presto.


M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

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