Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.5, also known as the Emperor Concerto, is exhilarating and awakens the ears of listeners.


“The gentleness of the water droplet tenderly falling into the water embodies the calmness of the second movement.”

This three movement work was the last piano concerto written by Beethoven before his death in 1827. Beethoven dedicated this work to his pupil and patron, Archduke Rudolf, which makes it a fitting dedication considering Archduke Rudolf was royalty himself. Early on in Beethoven’s life, his works were feared by other great composers because they were based so heavily upon passion rather than mathematical precision. Beethoven is one of the composers who bridged the gap between the classical and romantic musical eras. The opening of the first movement illustrates this with the virtuosic presence of the soloist capturing the attention of listeners with long runs and ornamentation displaying the pianist’s extraordinary skill. No sooner does the piano soloist get introduced that Beethoven lets the orchestra regain command of the work allowing it to soar to the finish.

Beethoven’s work demonstrates the conversation that takes place between piano and orchestra. Specifically, in his fifth piano concerto, there is a question being asked by the piano and the orchestra responds. If the second movement could be described in a picture, this would be a fitting example.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

The gentleness of the water droplet tenderly falling into the water embodies the calmness of the second movement. The rich colours of the orchestra and the soul emanating from the piano intertwine to create a peaceful and reflective middle movement. The start of the third movement is a shocking contrast to the second movement.

There is no denying that indeed, we are reaching the final minutes of a masterful work. It ends in typical Beethoven style, triumphant, majestic and overwhelmingly inspirational making the listeners leave hungry for more.

The very revolutionist Beethoven would be rolling in his grave if he knew this piece is nicknamed the “Emperor Concerto.” He initially considered dedicating his third symphony to Napoleon, however, he reconsidered this notion after Napoleon assumed the position of Emperor. The living conditions in Vienna in 1809 were difficult as the city was under constant bombardment by Napoleon’s troops. This did not stop Beethoven from promptly completing the concerto.

Because Beethoven was entirely deaf by this time, he was prevented his performance of the solo part. The honor therefore fell to a 25 year old church organist who played the premier performance in November of 1812. Although Beethoven’s loss of hearing could be considered one his greatest downfalls, in many ways, it ended up being his greatest asset because it forced him to write with passion as well as precision and not be reliant on sound.

You can hear Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 played by Canadian piano virtuoso Andre Laplante this Saturday, September 20 at Opening Night: Laplante Plays Beethoven.

Treat your ears to what is arguably Beethoven’s most beautiful concerto.

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