Accompanied by the New York Philharmonic under the baton of the American conductor Alan Gilbert, the British-born classical pianist Stephen Hough performs Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat major, Op.73, popularly known as the "Emperor Concerto". Recorded at the David Geffen Hall, New York, on January 14, 2017.
As is true of many of the composer's works with nicknames – e.g. the "Moonlight" Sonata, the "Spring" Sonata – the "Emperor" moniker attached to Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat major, Op.73, is not the composer's own. Still, there is hardly an adjective that could more aptly evoke the work's impressive scale and majesty. Despite its considerable technical demands, the "Emperor" Concerto handily transcends the typical role of the concerto as a mere virtuoso vehicle. Indeed, it is virtually symphonic in conception; its E flat major key (the same as that of the "Eroica" Symphony), expansive form, and sometimes martial, always grand, character grant the concerto a place among the defining works in the composer's heroic vein. The first performance of the Concerto was likely that given by Friedrich Schneider in Leipzig on November 28, 1811.
The Concerto No.5 is Beethoven's final essay in the concerto genre. He may have lost interest in concertante works at least in part because of his advancing deafness, which brought an end to his own career as a pianist. Tellingly, he himself never publicly played the Concerto No.5, though he had written his four previous piano concertos for his own use on the concert stage. Moreover, the athletic, virtuoso ideal rarely fit the language of Beethoven's late works, even though some of the last piano sonatas are punishingly difficult.
In the Piano Concerto No.4, Beethoven made a striking break with convention in commencing the work with a piano solo. In the opening Allegro of No.5, he takes this idea to an extreme, providing the soloist with an extended cadenza, punctuated by tutti chords from the orchestra, that outlines in miniature the entire 20-minute movement. The main theme is marchlike and assertive; the somewhat more relaxed second theme first appears cloaked in mystery, in a minor-key version that soon gives way to the expected statement in the dominant major. The grandeur of the movement is colored by excursions to remote keys that, however, never fully thwart the powerful forward drive.
The lyrical and idyllic second movement, Adagio un poco mosso, is one of Beethoven's most tender and intimate statements. The piano predominates here – not in a virtuoso context, but in a manner and texture that prefigure the nocturnes of Chopin. A long dominant pedal underpins a muted, even ethereal transition to the Rondo. In contrast to the noble magnificence of the opening Allegro, the Rondo is a movement of jubilant affirmation, evidenced at once by the upward-surging, dance-like main theme. Though the ambitious conception of the Concerto remains ever at the fore in the Rondo, Beethoven nevertheless does not shy away from providing the soloist with passages of exceptional brilliance.
Source: Michael Rodman (allmusic.com)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
♪ Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat major, Op.73 "Emperor" (1809-1811)
ii. Adagio un poco mosso
iii. Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo
Stephen Hough, piano
New York Philharmonic
Conductor: Alan Gilbert
New York, David Geffen Hall, January 14, 2017
Stephen Hough (b. 1961) is regarded as a renaissance man of his time. Over the course of his career he has distinguished himself as a true polymath, not only securing a reputation as a uniquely insightful concert pianist, but also as a writer and composer. Mr. Hough is commended for his mastery of the instrument along with an individual and inquisitive mind which has earned him a multitude of prestigious awards and a long-standing international following.
In 2001 Mr. Hough was the first classical performing artist to win a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. He was awarded Northwestern University's 2008 Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano, won the Royal Philharmonic Society Instrumentalist Award in 2010 and in January 2014 was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in the New Year's Honors List. He has appeared with most of the major European and American orchestras and plays recitals regularly in major halls and concert series around the world. His recent engagements include recitals in Chicago, Hong Kong, London, New York's Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Paris, Boston, San Francisco, the Kennedy Center and Sydney; performances with the Czech, London and New York Philharmonics, the Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, St Louis, National, Detroit, Dallas, Atlanta and Toronto symphonies, and the Philadelphia, Minnesota, Budapest Festival and Russian National Orchestras; and a performance televised worldwide with the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle. He is also a regular guest at festivals such as Aldeburgh, Aspen, Blossom, Edinburgh, Hollywood Bowl, Mostly Mozart, Salzburg, Tanglewood, Verbier, Chicago's Grant Park, Blossom, and the BBC Proms, where he has made over 20 concerto appearances, including playing all of the works written by Tchaikovsky for piano and orchestra over the summer of 2009, a series he later repeated with the Chicago Symphony.
Many of Mr. Hough's catalogue of over 50 albums have garnered international prizes including the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, Diapason d'Or, Monde de la Musique, several Grammy nominations, eight Gramophone Magazine Awards including "Record of the Year" in 1996 and 2003, and the Gramophone "Gold Disc" Award in 2008, which named his complete Saint-Saens Piano Concertos as the best recording of the past 30 years. His 2012 recording of the complete Chopin Waltzes received the Diapason d'Or de l'Annee, France's most prestigious recording award. His 2005 live recording of the Rachmaninov Piano Concertos was the fastest selling recording in Hyperion's history, while his 1987 recording of the Hummel concertos remains Chandos' best-selling disc to date. His most recent releases, all for Hyperion, include Grieg Lyric Pieces; a recording of his mass, "Missa Mirabilis", with the Colorado Symphony and Andrew Litton; a recital disc with Steven Isserlis including Mr. Hough's Sonata for cello and piano (Les Adieux); a solo recital of Scriabin and Janacek; and the Dvorak and Schumann concertos with the CBSO and Andris Nelsons.
Mr. Hough is also the featured artist in an iPad app about the Liszt Piano Sonata, which includes a fully-filmed performance and was released by the cutting-edge, award-winning company Touch Press.
Published by Josef Weinberger, Mr. Hough has composed works for orchestra, choir, chamber ensemble and solo piano. His "Mass of Innocence and Experience" and "Missa Mirabilis" were respectively commissioned by and performed at London's Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral. In 2012, the Indianapolis Symphony commissioned and performed Mr. Hough's own orchestration of "Missa Mirabilis", which was subsequently performed by the BBC Symphony as part of Mr. Hough's residency with the orchestra. Mr. Hough has also been commissioned by the musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Gilmore Foundation, London's National Gallery, Wigmore Hall, Le Musée de Louvre and Musica Viva Australia among others.
A noted writer, Mr. Hough regularly contributes articles for The Guardian, The Times, The Tablet, Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine and wrote a blog for The Telegraph for seven years which became one of the most popular and influential forums for cultural discussion and for which he wrote over six hundred articles. His book, The Bible as Prayer, was published by Continuum and Paulist Press in 2007, and his first novel, The Final Retreat, will be published in early 2018 by Sylph Editions. Mr. Hough resides in London where he is a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music and holds the International Chair of Piano Studies at his alma mater, the Royal Northern College in Manchester. He is also a member of the faculty at The Juilliard School.
Antonín Dvořák: Symphony No.9 in E minor "From the New World" – New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert (HD 1080p)
Sergei Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini – Stephen Hough, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo (HD 1080p)