Friday, June 28, 2019

Beethoven's pivotal Piano Concerto #3, with romanticism to follow

I mentioned Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #3 in C Minor, Op 37, in a post yesterday, and it does bring back memory of my own coming of age.

Back in the fall of 1959, I had started eleventh grade and I remember getting a low price record of this work, which took up the whole disc despite its 35-minute length. The program notes said that this work was still in the world of Mozart and Haydn.

Yet the first movement has some melodrama to be sure, with a powerful climax after the cadenza.

But I can remember some interesting play with the interval of the fourth in the second theme, that would stick in my head as I read (for an English class book report) James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Deerslayer” (which had been a movie recently then), the passage about the ark on a hidden pond, and got ready write a term paper about Cooper’s treatment of women later in the academic year.  It wasn’t too progressive or woke by today’s cultural standards.  So I can place getting the record in the fall of 59 with that old RCA Victor record player in the basement.

This was one of the first major piano concertos in a minor key (after Mozart’s D Minor, #20) where the finale ends in the parallel, Picardy major. Yet here the finale doesn’t have the “big tune” idea that we would soon have in romantic piano concerti (Grieg’s would be one of the first to do this.)

The performance about is by Arthur Rubenstein and the Concetgebouw, a staple pianist during my own early days (then on RCA Victor).

The Piano Concerto #3 was composed around 1800, just before Beethoven’s hearing loss became more troublesome.  Four years later would come the triumph of the Symphony #5, but the whole finale is in the major key, not just the coda.
The Piano Concerto #3 also reminds me a bit of the Brahms First Concerto.  The slow movement of #3, in the mediant key of E Major, is the most adventurous harmonically, and there is an enharmonic transition back to C Minor for the Rondo theme of the finale.

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