Beethoven (1770 - 1827)

Piano Concerto No.5 E-flat major op.73 “Emperor” (40')

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 was composed between 1808 and 1810. It is a revolutionary piece, featuring many elements unheard of in other similar compositions of the time. In the beginning of the first movement, for instance, Beethoven lets the solo piano enter right away after the very first chord played by the full orchestra. Here the piano part is explicitly written out, but the composer clearly intends it to be an improvisational cadenza-like section. It is filled with soloistic passages, with which the pianist can immediately exhibit his/her virtuosity. Beethoven has asked the piano to play alone at the start of his previous piano concerto (Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58). There, however, the piano plays only a five-measure-long main theme, which lacks any cadenza quality. Perhaps the reason why Beethoven wrote the improvisational passages in the opening measures of the fifth concerto is that he still wished to perform the solo part at its premiere, even though his difficulty in hearing was making it impossible for him to play with orchestra. Piano Concerto No. 5 is a truly grandioso piece, consisting of three movements, of which the last two are performed without an interruption.

[Akira Ishii]