Friday, May 30, 2014

Montage # 158 – Beethoven: Sonatas & Concerto

As of  June 27, 2014, this montage will no longer be available on Pod-O-Matic. It can be heard or downloaded from the Internet Archive at the following address:


The last chapter in our Unfinished Business series is an all-Beethoven program, which includes two of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas and one of his five piano concertos.

In 2011 and 2012, we undertook what I called at the time the “Beethoven Project”, a set of regular montages that aimed to explore all of the Beethoven symphonies and concertos. One of the earliest installments of that project was a montage that featured the Egmont overture, the Eroica Symphony and one movement from the Emperor concerto, which I aptly called “Three E’s in Beethoven”. The three works not only shared the letter “E”, they also shared a common trait – Beethoven’s “humanist” streak, in his own way (a lot like our Wartime symphonies from last week showed) a tribute to the human spirit.

Of the five Beethoven concertos, the fifth (Emperor) is surely his best known, and its powerful rondo stands out as probably a precursor of the great piano concertos that will follow in the coming century – notably the great Russian concertos, part virtuoso showpiece and part catchy tune. The late great Vladimir Horowitz is the soloist, with Fritz Reiner conducting the RCA Victor Symphony (i.e. the NBC Symphony).

My favourite Beethoven piano concerto is not the Emperor, but rather the fourth, which was featured in a different montage which I called “Serene Beethoven”, along with a pair of “pastorals” – the sixth symphony and the piano sonata no. 15, also nicknamed “pastoral”. The incomplete performance by Vladimir Ashkenazy is one of two “complete” sonatas featured this week, along with the 14th sonata – probably one of his most notorious, the Moonlight sonata in a performance by Wilhelm Kempff, aiming to complete our “Night Time” montage.

I think you will love this music too!