Beethoven’s ‘Piano Concerto No. 4’ – No. 32 in our collection

Ludwig van Beethoven (16?.12.1770 – 26.03.1827) was a German composer and pianist. He was the predominant musical figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras, dominating a period of musical history as no one else before or since. He is widely regarded as the greatest composer who ever lived; widening the scope of the sonata, the symphony, the concerto, and the string quartet. In the Ninth Symphony he combined the worlds of vocal and instrumental music in a manner never before attempted. He wrote five concertos for the piano and we have chosen to include the ground-breaking Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58 in our collection of masterworks.

Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto is written in three movements:

  1. Allegro moderato
  2. Andante con moto –
  3. Rondo: Vivace

The most famous thing about this concerto is the exquisite way in which it opens with a gentle, questioning theme for the soloist. Never before had a soloist opened a concerto and none had started in such a poetic and speculative fashion. After this the orchestra enters as if in a trance. Throughout this movement we find the piano, through reflective understatement, deflecting the orchestra’s assertiveness. In the central andante the piano part is more theatrical but still maintains a sense of gentle persuasion. One can also sense the transition from the baroque-like precision and sternness of the strings to the soft harmonised responses of the piano, full of Romantic pathos. This movement leads, without a break, into the rondo which re-establishes G-major after a few bars in C major (emulating Haydn’s humour?).

We have selected a superbly realised performance from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra which is directed from the keyboard by Leif Ove Andsnes. The Mahler Chamber Orchestra play impeccably, Andsnes performs with clarity and poetic subtlety and the close link between soloist and orchestra ensures a perfectly balanced performance that sets this recording apart from the crowd.

Stream on Spotify or Idagio. Purchase from Presto Classical.

View the other works in our collection.