Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat, Op. 73.
Beethoven completed his Fifth Piano Concerto in 1809, the year
in which Napoleon and his all-conquering Armée attacked
and took Vienna. In a cellar of a friend’s house the composer
tied pillows over his head because he wanted to save what little
was left of his hearing. The Emperor Concerto was not
so named after Napoleon; in fact this nickname did not derive
from Beethoven and is only used in English-speaking countries.
It is said to have been coined by the piano-making composer and
music publisher, J.B. Cramer, a German who settled in Britain.
Cramer regarded the work as an emperor among concertos. Few
would deny this claim, the Concerto being magnificent, its first
movement splendid and triumphant, the slow movement
spellbindingly beautiful, the finale exuberant, exultant and
Although the “Emperor” was finished in 1809, it was not given its
first performance until two years later, on 28 November, 1811.
Considering Beethoven’s fame by this time, the long delay must
have been due to the troubled times in which it was completed.
Beethoven dedicated his new Concerto to Archduke Rudolph of
Austria, his pupil, patron and friend.
Beethoven was now too deaf to give the Concerto its first
performance, therefore he wrote the solo part out in full, which
he had not done in the past because he had been his own soloist
at his premières. The pianist entrusted with the all-important
first performance was Friedrich Schneider, and the orchestra was
the very fine Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, conducted by
Johann Schultz. The performance was a great triumph for
Beethoven and the influential newspaper, Allgemeine
Musikalische Zeitung wrote “…the first audience was so
enthusiastic that it could hardly content itself with ordinary
signs of recognition and enjoyment”.
Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished” in B
Despite its name the “Unfinished” Symphony has been a repertory
piece since its first performance in 1865. The Symphony has just
two complete movements, but they are indeed complete with
Schubert’s own detailed orchestration containing some of his
most beautiful and expressive music. Curiously enough the
work ends in the ‘wrong key’ of E major, but we know that the
composer intended to continue it with a scherzo (and surely a
finale too). However, as it is, the Symphony does not sound
incomplete in the sense of leaving us unsatisfied.
The “Unfinished” Symphony is a relatively mature work of
exquisite lyrical beauty and intensity and is often referred to
as “the torso” because, like a Greek torso, it is incomplete.
However, this in no way detracts from its beauty. The Symphony
evokes a mysterious, dreamy mood that pervades – particularly in
the gentler second movement, which ends on a note of utter
serenity. The two completed movements of the Symphony are dated
30 October, 1822. In the following year Schubert sent the score
to his friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner. Unbelievably, Hüttenbrenner
kept the score to himself for over 40 years, maybe, being a
second-rate composer he had grown jealous of Schubert’s success.
Finally, however, in 1865 Hüttenbrenner was persuaded to hand it
over to Johann Herbeck, the conducter of the Vienna Philharmonic
Orchestra and he duly performed the work in Vienna on the 17
December 1865. It was greeted with rapturous applause by the
audience and critics alike.