Recorded on 06/17/2007, uploaded on 01/26/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
A youthful work by Ludwig van Beethoven, the Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major was actually his first successful attempt at the genre, predating the Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major by nearly a decade. As with other work in his oeuvre, and indeed those of other composers as well, the numbering reflects the publishing order and not the order of composition. Beethoven began working on the concerto between 1787 and 1789 while he was still residing in Bonn. When he moved to Vienna in 1792, the Piano Concerto No. 2 became a vehicle for the young musician to establish himself in the Austrian capital as a piano virtuoso. However, he apparently was not entirely happy with the concerto as he composed a new finale when he performed it at his public debut at the Burgtheater on March 29, 1795. Beethoven composed yet another finale for a performance in Prague in 1798 (one year after the composition of the Piano Concerto No. 1). Yet, of the three different versions of the concerto, the one used at the 1795 premiere has become the standard today. Beethoven maintained the Piano Concerto No. 2 for his own use, leaving the solo part un-notated until he finally submitted the work to his publisher in 1801. Even though he thought the concerto one of his lesser efforts, even admitting this to his publisher, Beethoven nevertheless felt it at least worthy of publication.
Despite being generally regarded as one of the least among Beethoven’s concertos (alongside the Triple Concerto), the Piano Concerto No. 2 nevertheless has an apparent charm and an inherent drama that points to the growing imagination of the composer and the intensity of his later works. The plan of the work follows very much in the footsteps of the Classical concerto tradition established by Haydn and Mozart, and the finale which Beethoven composed for the 1795 premiere certainly shows the influence of the former, who was at the time his composition teacher. The first movement falls in line with typical Classical concerto form with the movement’s two principal themes announced first by the orchestra and restated again by the soloist, and then subsequently worked out during the course of its development. The middle Adagio, a charming movement in E-flat major, also follows an expected ternary design. Lastly, the finale abounds in Beethoven’s characteristic wit, albeit tempered by the influence of Haydn, and certainly gives the impression of being written by a composer of more developed skill. Throughout it is playful, with an incessant syncopated rhythm established at the outset of the refrain. Joseph DuBose
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