Week 16 – Beethoven’s Blog

Posted on August, 12th 2021

Triple Concerto Opus 56, the Appasionata Sonata Opus 57, and the 4th Piano Concerto in G Major Opus 58

The Eroica Symphony was a piece of tremendous emotional and energetic output. Subsequent to it, Beethoven turned to three pieces that revolved around the piano.

The Triple Concerto Opus 56, the Appasionata Sonata Opus 57, and the 4th Piano Concerto in G Major Opus 58. While they are all very serious pieces, I don’t think they have the same psychological heft of the Eroica. How would it be possible for a composer to sustain that kind of effort work after work? Am I trivializing the pieces under discussion here? Not at all! They are masterpieces that all serious listeners should know, but in a different category as it were.
I must say that, in some quarters, the Triple Concerto is devalued. I am not in that camp. I love this piece, especially the incredibly beautiful and inspired 2nd movement. BTW, this concerto strikes terror into cellists everywhere due to the fiendish difficulty of the solo cello part. The legendary recording below is wonderful! It features Sviatislav Richter piano, David Oistrakh violin, and Mstislav Rostropovich cello.

The Appasionata Sonata is a favorite of classical music lovers everywhere. Its opening alternating between the subdued and fiery in the deeply emotional key of f minor stirs the heart. You’ll enjoy this beautiful performance by Murray Perahia one of our generation’s most stellar pianists.

Beethoven’s 3rd Piano Concerto churned aggressively in c minor (the same key of his 5th symphony) and the Eroica symphony exulted in power and drama. But in his 4th piano concerto, he turns much more reflective and gentle. The first movement even begins without the orchestra. That didn’t happen before in the world of concertos. Beethoven once again the radical. The music must serve the needs of the heart and mind, not tradition. While there are a great many technical demands on the pianist, the overall feeling is repose and serenity, however the second moment is another story. A strange dialogue between forte strings and the piano playing piano ensues. It’s a profoundly personal piece of music that seems to go right to Beethoven’s soul. It elides then into a wonderfully graceful finale. I hope you’ll be interested in Barenboim’s, not only playing the solo piano part, but also conducting from the keyboard. No mean feat.

Please enjoy these three pieces from Beethoven’s incredibly fertile 2nd style period.