Beethoven: piano concerto no 5, in E flat major, opus 73‏

by richibi

"Beethoven" - Joseph Karl Stieler

A portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven (1820)

Joseph Karl Stieler


you might say a triumvirate of piano concertos dominate
our Western musical culture, a veritable trinity of pianistic
masterworks that tower over, and have ruled, our musical
consciousness throughout the modern epoch, the
Rachmaninoff 3 has been one of them, but the 5th of
n is surely the granddaddy, the “Guppa” as a
favourite grandchild I know would say, the Olympian
Zeus, the Christian God the Father, of them all, in majesty
and authority, others quake in its overwhelming aura, it is
the sun to all the other stars

Glenn Gould is the standard still by which it should be
played, none yet, to my mind, has surpassed him

Karel Ancerl conducts the Toronto Symphony Orchestra,
a competent orchestration, overshadowed inevitably by
this prodigy, who nevertheless doesn’t ever flaunt his
finger play but remains faithful throughout to the
dictates, the tonal balances, of the music, it is 1972

I had mentioned “variations in volume, tempo, tonality,
the play of harmonization and discords” in Rachmaninoff
note the strict adherence to tempo here, even the fastest
runs of notes are grounded in beat, more solid, less elusive
than the iridescent Rachmaninoffian allusions to Debussy,
you could set a metronome to the appropriate tempo of
each individual movement in Beethoven, it would remain
constant, apart from a few restrained ritardandos near
the end of some musical elaborations, until its very final
apotheosis, beat was ever an anchor for the fulgurating
Beethoven, an article of faith from which he strayed only
with great circumspection

note the language is not emotional, passionate and ardent,
but philosophical, metaphysical, Beethoven is confronting
cosmological considerations, existential realities, not the
more emotional concerns that confound us every day, it’s
God he’s talking to, eternity, not the incarnate tendrils
of the moment, not the poignant stuff even of soon
through Schubert a Chopin, Beethoven was at the start
of that Romantic Movement, indeed its very first
proponent, but not quite ready to wear his heart itself
on his sleeve, but a more spiritual, probing reason, whose
ardent metaphysical ratiocinations would set all the others
on fire, setting the stage for all the other stars

later, if you haven’t guessed what it’ll be already, I’ll
supply you with the third concerto, the Holy Ghost, of
the trinity, the Apollo, god of music and the sun, among
our concert greats