Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-Flat Major, Op. 19
It can now be assumed, that on the 29th of March 1795 what is now known as the second concerto in B flat major Op. 19 was presented to the Viennese public in Hofburgtheater. Announced was "a new concerto on the pianoforte, played and composed by the maestro, Herr Ludwig van Beethoven". The origins of the composition date back to the year 1790. At that time Beethoven was living in Bonn and had begun to give many concertos as a soloist - in Bonn, Vienna and on tour. The concerto went through four different versions before it was first printed in 1801. Further versions were developed between 1793 and 1794, when the third movement was added, as we know it today. This Rondo, in 6/8 measure, exhibits particularly significant features. First the metric shift of the main theme, which creates an unusual syncopation; the first note appears on the first metric beat and not as an upbeat, as would be expected. This syncopation also remains the connecting rhythmic element for the whole movement. Only once, namely in the coda, does the first eighth note appear as an upbeat, but here it does so in the completely surprising "wrong" key of G major. The movement through keys in the Rondo is in principle quite remarkable; the minor variant of the main theme first appears in G-minor, then in C-minor and then completely unexpectedly in the far distant B-flat minor. Generally the work with motives and the development of the main theme are already very significant and certainly influenced by his then newly acquired teacher Joseph Haydn, as well as the ending of the Rondo, which to this day has not lost its witty effect. The piano seems to be completely lost in a cadence before the orchestra abruptly sets the five sensational final bars of the concert in subito fortissimo. Last but not least is the aforementioned syncopated character, which also could be traced back to the influence of folk music in the symphonic music of Haydn.
The final version of the orchestral score, as we know it today, was built on the highly successful concert tour to Prague in 1798, whose success Beethoven used to generously revise the Concerto in B. Only the piano part was completed in 1801 in Vienna. The unusually long time-frame of the composition over 11 years echoes the visible transformation of Beethoven from a traveling virtuoso to an established composer. At the same time it also shows the continuous process of establishing independence from his education and his heroes. This is illustrated precisely in the way he reworks an earlier work. In the first impression the main motive of the first movement appears very much in the sense of Mozart and Haydn. But also at the same time it is already in the same manner he created his later main motives, which exist primarily to be further developed. Compared for example with the main theme of the "Eroica" - here and there it's built up exclusively by broken triads whose motific development run through the whole movement. An equally characteristic feature is the completely contrasting lyrical response to the main theme, which quite abruptly follows it in the second measure.
Similarly significant is the dialogue between the piano and the orchestra at the end of the second movement, the Adagio, which is entitled "con grande espressione". The piano seems to be able to convince and reassure the orchestra - as it also does later in the second movement of the fourth piano concerto.
Following the initiative of the Stuttgart piano teacher and publisher Prof. Dr. Sigmund Lebert, several arrangements of piano concertos of Ludwig van Beethoven emerged in 1881 "...for study and concert-hall" and for which he was able to get famous composers, such as Franz Liszt or Vincenz Lachner. We owe to the latter the transcription of the second concerto, which gets a fascinating, rarely heard chamber music sound through careful allocation of the parts and refined orchestration and which appears for the first time with this recording.
Translation by Catie Leigh Laszewski