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October 20, 2017 - 7:30 PM
- One Pioneer Plaza
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- Plaza Theatre Box Office
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Bohuslav Rattay, Conductor
Yefim Bronfman, Piano
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 4, op. 58, G major
Bartok – Concerto for Orchestra
Beethoven’s own instrument was the piano. Much of his early fame was as a pianist as well as a composer, and he abandoned performance only when his advancing deafness precluded it. As a pianist he introduced major changes in approach, adding elements of drama and even roughness to the more refined techniques and approaches of performers such as Mozart.
The Fourth Piano Concerto, however, is in many ways a quiet and introspective work. It comes from the incredible middle period of his career, along with works such as the Fifth and Sixth symphonies. Its first public performance in December 1808 was on a program including both those symphonies. Written in 1805-06, it had been heard in private subscription performance in 1807 at the home of Prince Lobkowitz, one of Beethoven’s patrons. In both the public and private premieres, Beethoven was the pianist. J.F. Reichhardt, one of the listeners at the public premiere, remembered that Beethoven played “with astounding cleverness and in the fastest possible tempi.” He also especially noted that in the slow movement Beethoven “sang on the instrument with a profound melancholy that thrilled me.” However, Reichhardt also complained: “There we sat from 6:30 till 10:30 in the most bitter cold and found by experience that one might easily have too much even of a good thing.” He noted he was stuck and couldn’t leave because he was seated next to Prince Lobkowitz. The complaint is entirely understandable when we realize that the concert contained not only this concerto and two symphonies, but also the Choral Fantasy and excerpts from the C-major Mass!
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