COMPOSED BY

Ludwig van Beethoven (Dec 1770 - Mar 1827) in 1798

DURATION

Approximately 40 minutes (total 3 movements)

Instrumentation

1 flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 2 horns, timpani, strings, solo piano

SUMMARY OF THE COMPOSITION

Beethoven’s voice started to emerge in this concerto, with its bold melodic ideas and daring harmonies. It was a move away from his earlier style in Concerto in B-flat Major where he imitated Mozart’s and Haydn’s styles. Although Piano Concerto No. 1 was Beethoven’s first published piano concerto, it was his third attempt at the genre.

1

Allegro Con Brio

The first movement is in the sonata form. Based on a beautiful, flowing and lyrical melody, the second violins introduce the contrasting second theme in an inner voice. The piano enters as a soloist, playing a new idea quietly and unassumingly as if it is not in the orchestra. It plays a short development section that contains a wonderfully mysterious series of pianissimo descending scales. Both the repeat of the exposition and the recapitulation contain many other highly effective developmental ideas, extending the length of the movement and foreshadowing the techniques in Beethoven’s later works. 

2

Largo

The second movement is in the remote key of A♭ major, with a beautiful but restrained melody. The repetition in this movement creates a sense of a story unfolding, very much like in the first movement. The clarinets have an unusually prominent role in this movement, playing the melody as often as the violins.

3

Rondo. Allegro scherzando.

The final movement opens with a piano solo playing the main theme, which is then joined by the orchestra. There are two short cadenzas in this movement – one just before the final return to the main theme, and another immediately before the end of the movement. The movement finishes with a striking dynamic contrast, where the piano plays a quiet melody, and the orchestra ends with a forceful strength.

WHO IS ... LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN?

Suprising fun facts

  • Hated giving piano lessons, only making exceptions for truly talented students, or young attractive women regardless of talent.
  • His father was an alcoholic, and would often beat and abuse him for playing wrong notes.
  • Suffered from illnesses throughout his life, and most notably, deafness.
  • After losing his hearing, he still had his perfect pitch and continued composing until his death.
  • Had a notoriously bad temper, often stopping his performances if he noticed anyone in the audience talking.

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