THIS SKETCHLEAF HAS A DISTINGUISHED PROVENANCE, BEING OWNED BY SEVERAL FAMOUS PIANISTS: these include Friedrich Schneider (1786-1853), the soloist at an early performance at Leipzig on 28 November 1811.
Beethoven's work sketching the "Emperor" piano concerto lasted from December 1808 to April 1809. He dedicated the work to his pupil the Archduke Rudolph of Austria, who took the solo part in the first performance on 13 January 1811. This sketchleaf appears to show Beethoven drafting the overall plan and thematic substance of his great concerto. This is unusual in containing drafts for all three movements, clearly representing an early stage in the composition of each:
RECTO: staves 1-8: sketches in common time, in E flat, for the end of the orchestral tutti in the first movement and the entry of the soloist, including dynamic markings and the designation of the piano part ("Solo"), a statement of the first four bars of the central theme (staves 7-8) and various statements of the motive of the first bar of the central theme (staves 4 and 8); staves 10-12: sketches evidently relating to the second-group material (cf. stave 10, bb.5ff., and stave 11, bb.3ff., with bb.170ff. of the final version)
VERSO: staves 1-3: sketches in 6/8 for the theme of the finale (not yet in its final form, although the characteristic hemiola rhythm is already in place); staves 5-9: sketches for an earlier projected version of the slow movement, not recorded in the recent edition of the Beethoven Thematic Catalogue (2014); this is a variation movement labelled "Andante con Variazioni", in 2/4 time, in B major (but with only four sharps in the key signature), including the autograph markings "Tutti", "Cembalo una corda" and "Var[i]ée min", the latter indicating an envisaged minor-mode variation (revealingly, staves 8-9 show Beethoven planning to connect this movement to the finale by a series of rising thirds above a bass moving from B to B flat); staves 11-12: the main motive of the first movement treated as a dominant-key pedal, and initially in imitative fashion
The "Emperor" Concerto is one of Beethoven's great iconoclastic works, a composition in which the composer reinvents the piano concerto, demolishing the older structure of the eighteenth-century form and paving the way for the celebrated Romantic concertos of Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. With the appearance of the soloist after the stirring opening chord, Beethoven announces his unmistakable intention to make the piano an equal protagonist with the orchestra in the unfolding musical drama. The composer had anticipated this in the Fourth Piano Concerto, Op.58, a more reticent work, in the first movement of which the piano enters alone and the orchestra quietly follows. Here in the "Emperor", however, Beethoven introduces the solo piano in stark opposition to the orchestra by giving it a titanic flurry of arpeggios in alternation with thunderous chords from the orchestra.
Beethoven's radical approach is manifest in other ways too. Not only do its vast proportions dwarf those of any previous concerto, its harmonic reach is also enormous, encompassing remote keys scarcely used before, notably in the C-flat passage in the first movement, a kind of precursor to the famously remote key of B major used for the slow movement. This new breadth of vision is reflected too in the tonal scope of the piano, Beethoven employing the highest and lowest ranges of the keyboard as never before. The shimmering, unearthly beauty of the slow-movement 'adagio', is scarcely paralleled in all Beethoven; it was used unforgettably as part of the soundtrack for the 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock.
We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Professor Nicholas Marston in our cataloguing of this lot.
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