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8.110878 - BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 3 / Triple Concerto (Weingartner) (1937-1939)
Great Conductors • Felix Weingartner
Beethoven (1770-1827): Piano Concerto No. 3 • Triple Concerto
Whereas Beethoven’s first two piano concertos are in major keys and inhabit a world of Mozart, the Third Piano Concerto represents, with its use of a minor key, a positive look forward into the turbulent early years of the nineteenth century in war-torn Europe. Its character is much more ambitious in construction with a lengthy and dark orchestral introduction in the opening Allegro con brio, with its frequent recourse of sforzando markings. Then, there is a dogged determination in its employment of trumpets and drums to emphasize the pervading uncertainty of its period. Additionally, there is a contrasting shifting between major and minor keys to heighten the dramatic nature of the writing. The slow movement, cast in the key of E major, inhabits a world resembling a lullaby (trumpets and timpani are silent here) with piano-writing that is richly decorative. Abrupt and unexpected fortissimo chords alert us to a change of mood rudely shattering the pervading atmosphere of calm and serenity. The vigorous finale illustrates the composer’s sense of fun with sudden changes of key and mood, contrasted with a more reflective and introspective middle section, before a major key coda brings the concerto to a powerful ending. The first performance was given with the composer as soloist in April 1803 in Vienna. The cadenzas used here are those by Beethoven’s contemporary Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870).
The Triple Concerto was written in 1803 during an extraordinarily intense period in Beethoven’s composing career. Between the years 1801 and 1804 the composer wrote his Waldstein Sonata, Op. 53, the F major Sonata, Op. 54, the Eroica Symphony, Op. 55, the Fourth Piano Concerto, Op. 58, the three Razumovsky String Quartets, Op. 59, and the Fourth Symphony, Op. 60. The unusual combination harks back to the vogue for the sinfonia concertante much favoured in Bonn, Mannheim and in France in the late eighteenth century. The solo writing is straightforward for the pianist and violinist but for the cellist is among the most taxing for the instrument ever written. Furthermore, the opening movement has always been criticized by Beethoven commentators for having too little of intrinsic musical substance to justify the repetitive overuse in a movement which is long and discursive. There is, however, a most attractive A flat major middle section. The singing second movement, marked Largo, is far more successful, displaying an almost Schubert-like charm in the melodic cantabile writing given to the string soloists. The concluding Rondo alla polacca has a sprightly and rousing main theme with attractive derivations in the coda.
The soloist in the Third Concerto is the French pianist Marguerite Long (1874-1966) who was born in Nîmes. She first studied in her hometown before going to the Paris Conservatoire, where she won a first prize at the end of her first year. She later became the foremost interpreter of early twentieth-century French music, in part derived from her friendship with Debussy, Fauré and Ravel, but also through the writing of valuable books on the interpretation of their piano music. Long gave the first performance of Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin in April 1919, the third movement of which, the Toccata, was dedicated to her late husband, the musicologist Joseph de Marliave, who was killed in action in autumn 1914. She gave the première of Ravel’s G major Concerto in January 1932 with the composer conducting, recording the work under the composer’s supervision later that year. She taught at the Paris Conservatoire from 1906 until 1940 and also founded her own school in 1920, where her pupils included Jean Doyen, Jacques Février and Aldo Ciccolini. In 1943 Long founded an international violin and piano competition with the violinist Jacques Thibaud. She recorded a considerable volume of French music in addition to Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with Charles Munch in 1944.
The first recording of the Triple Concerto employed the Argentinian-born later naturalised violinist Ricardo Odnoposoff who was born in Buenos Aires in 1914. First studying with Aaron Klose in his home city between 1919 and 1926, where he made his début while still a child, he moved to Berlin in 1928 to work with Carl Flesch until 1932 at the city’s Hochschüle für Musik in addition to studying composition with Paul Hindemith. Odnoposoff made his début as a concerto soloist with Erich Kleiber in 1932, the same year he won the Vienna International Competition. Five years later he won the Eugène Ysaÿe Competition in Brussels. He later became a much sought-after teacher in Vienna and Germany and served as an adjudicator in leading competitions.
The cellist Stefan Auber (1903-1986) was born and studied in Vienna before emigrating in 1938 to the United States, where he enjoyed a successful career as a soloist and chamber music performer including a three-year period as cellist in the Kolisch Quartet. He took part in the first recording of Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire under the composer’s direction in 1940 whilst living in California. He died in New York and, his personal papers were posthumously bequeathed to the State University of New York.
Born of a Puerto Rican violinist father and Mexican pianist mother, Angelica Morales (1910-1996) began her initial piano studies in Mexico City. In 1921 she went to the Hochschüle für Musik in Berlin, where her teachers included Egon Petri and Emil von Sauer (1862-1942) whom she later married following the death of his first wife. She made her Berlin concerto début in 1924 and her American one five years later at Carnegie Hall, New York. After the Second World War she returned to Mexico City to teach at the Conservatory of Music. In 1955 she became a visiting Professor of Piano at Kansas University and three years later joined the faculty on a permanent basis. Her LP recordings include Bach’s 48 and a Liszt recital for the American label Orion. A competition bearing her name is now held in Mexico City.
The conductor, composer and writer Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) was born in Dalmatia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He first read philosophy at Leipzig University (1881-83) before turning to music at Leipzig Conservatory. He became a pupil and later protégé of Liszt at Weimar. His conducting career began with opera in Königsberg (1884), followed by appointments in Danzig, Hamburg and Mannheim and Berlin between 1885 and 1898, the year he made his London orchestral début. Weingartner’s first American conducting engagement was in New York in 1905, two years before he was appointed Mahler’s successor at the Vienna Opera, a post he would hold until 1911. Then followed periods in Hamburg, Boston and Darmstadt in the years 1912 and 1919 before returning to Vienna as conductor of the Volksoper in 1919 for a five-year period. He was appointed director of the Basle Conservatory in 1927, interspersed with regular international conducting engagements. He returned to the Vienna State Opera for a brief period in 1935-6 before resigning. His London operatic début conducting Parsifal and Tannhäuser at Covent Garden took place in 1939 to considerable acclaim. He died in Winterthur, Switzerland. Weingartner was highly regarded as an interpreter of the German classics. As a composer he wrote operas, five symphonies and orchestral works, as well as concertos for violin and cello and five string quartets. As a writer he wrote a treatise on conducting and an important book on the interpretation of Beethoven symphonies. He also recorded fairly extensively until 1940, including making highly regarded versions of the Beethoven and Brahms symphonies.
This recording of Beethoven’s C minor Piano Concerto was transferred from laminated French Columbia pressings, the only form of issue for this comparatively rare set. The original recording, made in a small hall, was rather closely miked. In addition, all copies exhibit some mastering flaws, such as the metallic noise heard a few seconds into the Largo. The best sides from two copies were used for this restoration, as was the case with the Triple Concerto, taken from U.S. Columbia “Full-Range” label pressings.
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