[75] Ludwig van Beethoven – The Five Piano Concertos

12 Sep

There is *a lot* of music here.

Rudolf Serkin and the Bavarian Radio Orachestra

Rudolf Serkin and the Bavarian Radio Orchestra

The first section of the first Concerto – No 1 in C – is bright and lively and tons of fun with energetic runs up and down keys.  During the solo piano sections there are moments that, like during The Well Tempered Clavier, seem almost like exercises, but they are so amusing and engaging that you can’t help but smile, and follow where the stream of notes carry you.

It is almost a disappointment when the orchestra returns.

The melodies have a simplicity to them, without a feeling of staleness or overfamiliarity.  All of the complexity seems to be saved for the rest of the instruments, although perhaps it only seems this way thanks to the effortlessness of Serkin’s playing.

There is already plenty to explore and enjoy, and I am only into the first Concerto.

I can’t tell if Concerto No 2 in B flat is less interesting, or if I’m just having trouble maintaining focus.  It is certainly pretty, and once more I am more interested in the solos than the orchestral sections.

I understand the reasoning behind Moon’s selection – a unified take on one section of Beethoven’s work by one soloist, one conductor, one orchestra – but I am not immediately convinced that I needed to hear the whole thing, that each Concerto captured here is all as essential and necessary as the next.

What begins to win me over is the immense sense of fun – Serkin is so obviously enjoying himself that the orchestra and audience can’t help but feel it too.

With Concerto No 3 in C minor, Beethoven continues to require that his pianist range all over the keys in fascinating runs and chases – always highlighting the journey and to hell with the destination.

I find that I am enjoying this flamboyant, show-offish exuberance.  I am not a dancer, but the C minor makes me want to move, to emote, to express.

I am somewhat surprised that – once again – that I do not recognize anything here.  The radio in my childhood home was often set to Classical stations and my Grandpa’s record collection was full of Classical recordings, yet none of the Beethoven I have encountered over the past month has rung any significant bells of memory.

It begs the question, would I recognize these pieces if and when I encounter them again in the future?  Would I even necessarily know them for Beethoven?

Just how superficial has my exploration been?

At the very least I am learning to recognize the parts that make up a Piano Concerto – the frisky opening, the more langourous middle section, and the almost triumphant finale.

Until, of course, Beethoven departs from convention with Concerto Nos 4 and 5.

By the time we reach Concerto No 4 in G major I’ve somewhat lost interest, am running out of steam even if Serkin and company certainly have not.

“The Emperor” – Concerto No 5 in E flat – drags my attention back where it belongs.

I’m almost certain I’ve seen Tom chasing Jerry around to this one, and even if I haven’t the impression is still strong of hectic, manic motion paired with brief, contemplative moments.

It is wonderful.

Despite all of the preceding paragraphs, the previous weeks of discussing Beethoven and others, I am more or less faking it when it comes to Classical music in a way that I am just not with the Rock and Pop, even the Jazz and World recordings.

But while I don’t truly understand Classical structure and composition, I do have a well defined sense of what I like, and it creates a sort of internal heiarchy in place of any concrete logic.

So I can say that I enjoy these Piano Concertos far more than anything I heard by Bartok, but would choose to listen to Martha Argerich’s renditions of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No 3 over Serkin’s Beethoven performances.

Something to do with the immediacy and vitality of the Argerich recording.

As I said, all very internal and imprecise.

I have always been a musical nomad, a jack of all genres, and this project seems to be reinforcing that sense.  There is something I love in every genre, just as there are gaping holes in my knowledge of each genre.

And I am OK with this . . .

Next Week: Ludwig van Beethoven – Piano Concertos Nos. 4 and 5

Owned before blogging? No. (9 of 75 = 12%)
Heard before blogging? No. (11 of 75 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (60 of 75 = 80%)

One Response to “[75] Ludwig van Beethoven – The Five Piano Concertos”


  1. [76] Ludwig van Beethoven – Piano Concertos Nos. 4 and 5 | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - September 19, 2014

    […] is an interesting if fruitless exercise to wonder whether I would have recommended last week’s selection if I had heard this abbreviated but perhaps superior one […]

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