Accompanied by the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia (Galicia Symphony Orchestra), Italian classical pianist Maurizio Pollini plays Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73, the “Emperor”. Conductor: Daniele Pollini, the son of the pianist himself. Recorded live at the Palacio de la Ópera de A Coruña on November 14, 2014.
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Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor”
Beethoven wrote this concerto, which is his last piano concerto between 1809 and 1811 in Vienna, dedicated it to Archduke Rudolf (8 January 1788 – 24 July 1831, a Cardinal, an Archbishop of Olmütz, and a member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine), his patron and pupil.
It’s still unclear why this concerto was nicknamed “Emperor”. Given the way we know how Beethoven felt about Emperor Napoleon, it’s hardly a title he would have chosen. According to Herbert Glass, It is more likely that “Emperor” was the brainchild of an early publisher.
The concerto is scored for a solo piano, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in B-flat (clarinet I playing clarinet in A in movement 2; flute II, clarinet II, both trumpets, and timpani are tacet during this movement), two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani in E-flat and B-flat, and strings.
There are three movements, with the starting times in the video:
- Allegro in E-flat major (0:35) Despite its use of simple chords, including a second theme constructed almost entirely out of tonic and dominant notes and chords, the first movement is full of complex thematic transformations. When the piano enters with the first theme, the expository material is repeated with variations, virtuoso figurations, and modified harmonies. The second theme enters in the unusual key of B minor before moving to B major and at last to the expected key of B-flat major several bars later. Following the opening flourish, the movement follows Beethoven’s trademark three-theme sonata structure for a concerto. The orchestral exposition is a typical two-theme sonata exposition, but the second exposition with the piano has a triumphant virtuoso third theme at the end that belongs solely to the solo instrument (Beethoven does this in many of his concertos). The coda at the end of the movement is quite long, and, again typical of Beethoven, uses the open-ended first theme and gives it closure to create a satisfying conclusion.
- Adagio un poco mosso in B major (21:00) The second movement in B major is calmly paced and delicate, being a standard contrast to the first movement. It moves into the third movement without interruption when a lone bassoon note B drops a semitone to B-flat, the dominant note to the tonic key E-flat.
- Rondo. Allegro ma non troppo in E-flat major (28:53) The final movement of the concerto is a seven-part rondo form (ABACABA), a typical concerto finale form. The piano begins the movement by playing its main theme, then followed by the full orchestra. The rondo’s B-section begins with piano scales, before the orchestra again responds. The C-section is much longer, presenting the theme from the A-section in three different keys before the piano performs a cadenza. Rather than finishing with a strong entrance from the orchestra, however, the trill ending the cadenza dies away until the introductory theme reappears, played first by the piano and then the orchestra. In the last section, the theme undergoes variation before the concerto ends with a short cadenza and robust orchestral response.
Daniele Pollini was born in 1978. He made his debut as a pianist at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro in the summer of 1997. He also participated in the Salzburg Festival and the Ruhr Piano Festival and made his successful debut in Paris and in the United States.
He has appeared as soloist with the Orchestra Regionale Toscana, with the Orchestra of the Musical Afternoons and with the National Radio Symphony Orchestra In 2003 he performed at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino under the Zubin Mehta, and in 2004 he gave a concert at the Venice Biennale.
His interests also extend to electronic music. His training as a director is linked to the Accademia Musicale Chigiana conducting courses, taught by Gianluigi Gelmetti. In 2002 he made his debut at the Ravenna Festival with the RAI Symphony Orchestra, with a program including the IV and VII Symphony by Beethoven.
His repertoire ranges from classical and romantic authors to contemporary composers.
Maurizio Pollini was born in Milan in 1942 to the Italian rationalist architect Gino Pollini, who has been said to have been the first to bring Modernist architecture to Italy in the 1930s. Pollini studied piano first with Carlo Lonati, until the age of 13, then with Carlo Vidusso, until he was 18. He received a diploma from the Milan Conservatory and won both the International Ettore Pozzoli Piano Competition in Seregno (Italy) in 1959 and the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1960.
Arthur Rubinstein, who led the jury, declared Pollini the winner of the competition, allegedly saying: “that boy can play the piano better than any of us”. Soon afterward, for EMI he recorded Chopin’s Concerto No. 1 in E minor with the Philharmonia Orchestra under the Polish conductor Paul Kletzki and taped performances of Chopin’s etudes. When the Philharmonia offered Pollini a series of concerts, he experienced what EMI producer Peter Andry has called “an apparent crisis of confidence”.
After this, he studied with Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, from whom he is said to have acquired “a precise technique and emotional restraint”, although some have expressed a concern that Michelangeli’s influence resulted in Pollini’s playing becoming “mannered and cold”. During the early 1960s, Pollini limited his concertizing, preferring to spend these years studying by himself and expanding his repertoire.
Since the mid-1960s, he has given recitals and appeared with major orchestras in Europe, the United States, and the Far East. He made his American debut in 1968 and his first tour of Japan in 1974.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Pollini was a left-wing political activist. He collaborated with Luigi Nono in such works as Como una ola fuerza y luz (1972), which was to mourn the assassination of Luciano Cruz, a leader of the Chilean Revolutionary Front. He performed with Claudio Abbado at La Scala in a cycle of concerts for students and workers, in an attempt to build a new public as they believed that art should be for everybody.
In 1985, on the occasion of Johann Sebastian Bach‘s tricentenary, he performed the complete first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier. In 1987 he played the complete piano concertos of Ludwig van Beethoven in New York with the Vienna Philharmonic under Claudio Abbado and received on this occasion the orchestra’s Honorary Ring. In 1993-94 he played his first complete Beethoven Piano Sonata cycles in Berlin and Munich and later also in New York, Milan, Paris, London, and Vienna.
At the Salzburg Festival in 1995 he inaugurated the “Progetto Pollini”, a series of concerts in which old and new works are juxtaposed. An analogous series took place at Carnegie Hall in 2000-01 with “Perspectives: Maurizio Pollini” and at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 2010-11 with the “Pollini Project”, a series of five concerts with programmes ranging from Bach to Stockhausen.
In March 2012 it was announced that Pollini had cancelled all his forthcoming appearances in the USA for health reasons.
In 2014, Pollini played on a tour including the Salzburg Festival and his debut at the Rheingau Musik Festival, playing in the Kurhaus Wiesbaden Chopin’s Preludes (Op. 28) and Book 1 of Debussy’s Preludes.
Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia
Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia is a Spanish orchestra, created in 1992 and based in A Coruña, where it is the main orchestra in the city’s Mozart Festival. Its conductor is Dima Slobodeniouk.
- Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” (Beethoven) on Wikipedia
- Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia on Wikipedia
- “Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ concerto: a work ahead of its time” on the Classic FM website
- Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 (“Emperor”) on the LA Philharmonic website