Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4
Welcome to episode number 200 of Sticky Notes!!
On December 22nd, 1808, a day that would live in classical music lore forever, Ludwig Van Beethoven sat down for his very last appearance as a solo pianist to play this new piano concerto, his 4th. This performance was not only the premiere of the new piano concerto, but the premiere of two new symphonies as well, the 5th and the 6th. It featured many other new works, and the concert itself lasted nearly 4 hours, all inside of the cold and dark Theater an Der Wien with an underprepared and underrehearsed orchestra. The concert, despite featuring 3 works that would go on to be some of the most performed works in the history of classical music, was not a success. It was too long and too cold, featuring too many premieres and too much difficult music. It was criticized severely in all quarters, and Beethoven considered the concert a failure. And even that new concerto, the one that surprised so many people with its supremely gentle character, didn’t catch on quickly at all. It wasn’t until 1836 when Felix Mendelssohn, who we have to thank for so many of these situations, revived the piece. Today it is known as one of the most beloved concertos in the entire piano repertoire, partly due to the fact that it is so surprising, but not for the reasons one normally would expect. In the 4th piano concerto, Beethoven turns his entire musical brand so to speak upside down. Instead of a blazing fire, we get a gentle warmth, instead of drama, we get tenderness. And instead of virtuosity, we get a practically transcendental level of simplicity. Other than the short second movement, which does give us some of the old Beethoven fire, it is one of the most tender creations of Beethoven’s entire career. Join us to learn all about it today!