Day 201: Beethoven Piano Concertos No. 1 & No. 2

BeethovenCD6Some parts of Beethoven’s Piano Concert No. 1 in C Op. 15 remind me of Chopin - dreamy, ethereal, and very pretty.

Other parts, remind me of something Glenn Gould would play – a dramatic flurry of notes that astound for their speed and complexity, the musical equivalent of one of those tour buses that winds its way along narrow mountain roads with one wheel hanging over the precipice.

There’s also a bit of Rachmaninoff‘s brazen complexity in this music. It reminds me of the movie Shine in which pianist David Helfgott (played by Geoffrey Rush) suffers a mental breakdown during a competition at which he plays the “Rach 3″ (Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Concerto).

And that’s just in the first movement (“Allegro con brio”).

Now’s a good time to bring back the link to Wikipedia’s Tempo and Mood Markings entry.

Movement II (“Largo”) brings it down, retards the pace a bit, makes it more ponderous, give listeners a chance to recover from the con-brio onslaught of Movement I.

Movement III (“Rondo: Allegro scherzando”) ramps it back up again. Its tempo and mood markings indicate this is to be played briskly and playfully. And it is that. In spades.

I hate to sound like a moron. But I had no idea Beethoven was this gifted. These compositions rock me back in my chair. I’m astounded.

I keep waiting to find a favorite. But they’ve all been favorites. I’d listen to everything I’ve heard so far again. And again. It’s perfect music as Continue reading

Day 133: Now You’re Talkin’!

HaydnCD133Like yesterday’s CD of music for Lute and Strings, today’s CD of Concertini and Divertimenti for Piano is another a delightful surprise.

The first track – Concertino in C HOB XIV: 12, Movement I (“Allegro”) – reminded me of Glenn Gould’s rendition of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. The piano was all snappy and trill-y and bright. Loads of fun. Very lively.

Movement II (“Adagio”) definitely slows the tempo. But the piano is so lovely (in a Chopin nocturne sort of way) that the retarded pace is not depressing. More slightly melancholy, but not in an unpleasant sort of way.

Movement III (“Finale: Allegro”) is a bit less allegro than some I’ve heard. But, the sprightly interplay between the piano and the strings is delightful. A terrific blending of instruments.

Divertimento in C HOB XIV: 7 was equally fun to hear. Movement II (“Menuet”), especially, was lively and compelling.

Concertino in F HOB XVIII: F2 was more subdued, more stately, than the previous selections. But just when I thought it was going to go out with a wimper, not an altogether unpleasant one, Movement III (“Allego assai”) kicked in and flipped me on my ear. What a brisk, thousand-notes-a-minute piano piece this is!

Divertimento in C HOB XIV: 3 opens with a first movement (“Allegro moderato”) that features more fleet-fingered piano playing from Harald Kosik, but with more balance from the other musicians. It’s a nice piece. Movement II (“Menuet”) is a little slow for my tastes, and not bouncy enough as my favorite menuets are. But Movement III (“Finale: Allegro molto”) jars the menuet-induced reverie with a butt-kicking finale that, Continue reading

Day 111: Would You Believe…Jazz?

HaydnCD111Today’s CD is a bittersweet one for me: It’s the last of Haydn’s piano trios.

I’ve grown accustomed to Haydn’s trios. At first, I wasn’t sure I’d like them. They seemed rudimentary and shallow. But his Later Trios period contains awe-inspiring compositions; like today’s selection, for example.

I was totally blown away by Movement III (“Presto”) of Piano trio in C HOB XV:27. What an astonishing piece of work, especially for pianist Bart van Oort, whose fingers must have been exhausted by the time the movement ended.

The performance on this piece reminds me of famed pianist Glenn Gould. When Gould’s fingers get flying it’s Glenn_Gould_1something to behold.

Three of today’s trios (Nos. 27–29) are nicknamed “Bartolozzi Trios” and are dedicated to Theresa Jansen (Bartolozzi). From the Wiki article:

Therese Jansen Bartolozzi (ca. 1770 – 1843) was an eminent pianist whose career flourished in London around the end of the 18th century. She was the dedicatee of piano works by a number of famous composers.

That explains why these piano trios are heavy on the piano. They were written for someone who has extraordinary skill. They could be played by no other.

Another standout trio: Movement II (“Allegretto”) from Piano Trio in E HOB XV:28. I swear I’m listening to jazz. The phrasing, the seeming random placement of notes (as if improvised). This is jazz, dudes and dudettes. Haydn created jazz some two centuries before it was supposedly invented in America.

I’ve never heard a piece of Classical music like this Continue reading