Sir András Schiff, conductor and pianist: Beethoven at 250 – All Beethoven Program

סר אנדרש שיף

Date

29.2.2020

Saturday 20:00

Hall

The Lowy concert hall

Venue

Charles Bronfman Auditorium, Tel Aviv

Venue

Charles Bronfman Auditorium, Tel Aviv

Hall

The Lowy concert hall

Artists

Sir András Schiff, pianist and conductor

Concert Program

Beethoven at 250 – All Beethoven Program
Egmont Overture
Symphony no. 8
Piano Concerto no. 4

Event Info

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is proud to present the first in a series of concerts performed and conducted by Sir András Schiff, the first musician to be appointed Artist-in-Residence of the orchestra.

Schiff, one of the major musicians of our time, is a pianist, conductor, researcher and theorist of music. He offers the audience a new, refreshing and deep perspective of the musical works in which he specializes, including cycles of works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann.

The concerts and recital he will perform this season with the IPO will be dedicated to works by Ludwig van Beethoven, celebrating his 250th anniversary.

Piano Concerto no. 4

There are two ways to tell the story of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 4. The first, of a gossipy nature, focuses on the story of the concert that took place on 22 December 1808 in Vienna, in which the Concerto was given its public premiere: one can tell about the unending length of the concert (over four hours), which included the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, the Fourth Piano Concerto, the Choral Fantasy, an aria from Fidelio and other works. One can also expand on the cool response the Concerto received (literally “cool”, since the heating in the hall didn’t work), or the bitterness of the orchestra players, or of the relatively short rehearsal time they received and the composer’s meagre proceeds from the concert.

Another way is to sing the praises of this grand Concerto: Beethoven was a composer with a dramatic flair; some say that he was a theatrical composer. He was an artist of the “amazing beginning”, from the “wrong” chord in the First Symphony, through the cello solo in the Third Symphony and, of course, in works that Beethoven perceived as highly dramatic – the concertos. The surprising chords at the beginning of the Fifth Concerto, the orchestral unison in the Third, the timpani strokes at the beginning of the Violin Concerto, the surprising cello entrance in the Triple Concerto and many other examples. But the most surprising and revolutionary opening are the bold notes that open the G major Piano Concerto no. 4. Not only is the notion that the piano open a work surprising, but also the material that the piano plays: the opening chord, the rhythmical flexibility (which could almost characterize the end of a cadenza) of the first phrase, are in themselves a big surprise. The orchestra’s response, which is dramatic in its restraint, is also unconventional. Beethoven “heralds” another kind of work, a deep, reflective, fantastic concerto.

In historical perspective, it is intriguing to see how Beethoven’s way of thinking became the cornerstone on which later works were built. The second movement of the Concerto, which features a unique dialogue between two very different musical entities – the solo piano and the strings – is considered to be the core of the work. Many have tried to interpret this movement, but I think it is interesting to examine the relationship between it and the slow movement of Bartok’s Piano Concerto no. 2. Even if we take into account the different harmonic language, the mere idea of a dialogue between the piano and the strings, who play very different music, also appears clearly in Bartok’s work, but it is no less interesting to see that even daring Bartok is required to “mediate” between the strings and the piano (by using the timpani). The fact that Beethoven knew how to bring together these two diverse musical worlds, without use of synthesis or mediation, makes his imagination and daring even more admirable.

The third movement of the Concerto is also unusual. It is elegant and differs from the rest of the work, and after the “focused” orchestration in the second movement, Beethoven demonstrates in this finale (which also includes brass and timpani) that the full orchestra can create graceful music, lyrical flow and beauty.

And in between these two stories about the Concerto there is a really sad story: the performance of the Fourth Piano Concerto in Vienna was Beethoven’s last public appearance as a pianist. I doubt that anyone who attended this long concert in the cold hall with the bitter musicians understood that they were witnessing the birth of one of the greatest works in music history.

Symphony no. 8

… A composer and metronomist (inventor of the metronome) come to dinner… This is not the beginning of a joke (although the thought of it is amusing), but the background for the composition of the second movement of the Eighth Symphony, Beethoven’s shortest symphony (ca. 26 minutes). We shall return to the composer and manufacturer of the metronome, Maelzel, but first we should mention that this “clear” and light symphony was written during a very difficult period in the composer’s life. He was utterly depressed due his loss of hearing; he wrote a heartrending letter in which he bemoaned his loneliness to His Immortal Beloved; and while writing the symphony, in the spacious house of his brother Johann in Linz, he got involved in a strange story with Johann’s house-maid, whom he disliked so much that he saw to her expulsion from the city claiming she was “morally incompetent” (don’t worry, at the end of this soap opera Johann married the maid). Yet, there is no sign of sadness, depression, anger or hesitation in the Eighth. It consists of two Allegro movements, an Allegretto and Minuet (and Trio), it contains no “struggle” or heroism and it shows a rare light and jovial side of Beethoven.  If we return, for example, to the four frivolous minutes of the second movement, we can tell that they began as a kind of amusing song to his friend Maelzel, who manufactured (or improved) the metronome. The event took place at a party, which both attended, and Beethoven wrote on a napkin the tune to which he added the “genius” text: “Tick tock, Tick Tock, Hello to you dear Maelzel…” The guests at the party began singing the silly ditty that eventually found its way to the second movement of the Concerto. This Symphony is obviously Beethovenian, somewhat revolutionary. The lack of a slow movement and a Scherzo, the fact that the fourth movement takes longer than the first three movements put together, the thematic conciseness of the first movement – all bear Beethoven’s fingerprints. This work’s musical language draws our attention to the potential of brusqueness in music. There are renditions in which one can identify the almost sarcastic orchestral writing (mainly in the first and third movements), and there are brave conductors, who throughout their career returned repeatedly to this symphony and found in it varied and intriguing approaches in each rendition. This symphony can, more than any other work by Beethoven, wear different garb in every performance.

Egmont Overture

Beethoven and Goethe met on 21 July 1812 in Teplitz to discuss the music that Beethoven wrote for Egmont’s play, Egmont in Weimar”. To say that Goethe was enamored by Beethoven’s personality would be farfetched: “Beethoven’s personality is absolutely uncontrolled, to say the least. Perhaps he is right about his basic lack of affection for mankind and the world, but it does not make being around him any easier”. “Goethe delighted far too much in the court atmosphere”, said Beethoven of Goethe.

The lack of “personal chemistry” between the two did not prevent the revered poet from relishing the overture and nine numbers that Beethoven set to his play. Beethoven, on his part, was delighted at the opportunity to write a work that praised the spirit of man fighting tyranny, and to depict in music the heroic protagonist fighting for a worthy cause. The music to Egmont is not often performed, but the Overture has become one of Beethoven’s most frequently performed works. This is dramatic Beethoven at his best. From first hearing, one can identify from the work’s dramatic outline the character of the protagonist, the struggle, the victory. All this is done in a very sparse timeframe and with thematic conciseness, which resembles the Fifth Symphony. It seems, and perhaps Goethe noticed this, that the poetic drama was merely a catalyst, a scaffold, or an “excuse” to write yet another daring work by Beethoven that has survived long after the memory of the play for which it was written passed from the world.

[https://ipo.pres.global/order/1129?lang=en][18:30:00]

Price Range

Duration

approx 2 hours including intermission

Duration

approx 2 hours including intermission

Price range