Beethoven's Concertos: History, Style, Performance

Plantinga, Leon

Published by W. W. Norton & Company, 1999
ISBN 10: 0393046915 / ISBN 13: 9780393046915
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Synopsis: Beethoven's piano and violin concertos rank among the most famous and beloved works in concert literature. The composer regared the piano concertos, which he himself premiered, as very personal expressions of his musical thought and perfomance style. This book on Beethoven contains 11 chapters, each of which is devoted to a single concerto and the issues surrounding it. The author includes historical and background information, and details of sources, dating and performance practice, locating the works in their social and musical context, and discussing their form, style and affect, highlighting their expressive individuality. Finally, the author looks at the questions about performing this repertoire today.

Review: Analysis of Beethoven's concertos, at least in the hands of Leon Plantinga, yields insights into almost every aspect of the composer's work. Along with the standard concertos for piano and violin, Plantinga covers the violin romances and the Triple Concerto, sketches for an aborted sixth piano concerto, and the early Rondo WoO 6. There are dozens of helpful musical examples grouped in a separate booklet.

Beethoven originally withheld and revised his piano concertos for his own use and did not perform them after they had been published. But by the time of the Fourth Concerto, Plantinga sees a decided shift to the concerto as a work meant to stand on its own as a symphony does; Beethoven's Fifth Concerto was apparently the very first piano concerto to have been given its premiere by someone other than the composer. In discussing the other works, Plantinga makes an effective comparison of the B-flat Concerto with Haydn's music rather than (as is conventional) with Mozart's. The author's considerable knowledge of Clementi's music is illuminating in relation to the C Major Concerto. Chapters on the C Minor Concerto include a long and careful reconstruction of its compositional history (recapitulated in a short appendix for those who are not musicologically inclined). The tired explanation of the G Major Concerto's slow movement as an Orpheus narrative is effectively dismissed, and Plantinga's dissection of the internal relationships in the slow movement of the "Emperor" is a particularly fine segment of a fine book.

Even readers who are not pianists will find helpful, practical information about when and how a soloist might participate in the orchestral sections of classical concertos, systems of tuning in the period, cadenzas, and historical ideas about tempo. They will also enjoy Plantinga's direct, colorful writing style: the last movement of the "Emperor" behaves "more like a large puppy than a reliable steed." --William R. Braun

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Title: Beethoven's Concertos: History, Style, ...
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: 1999
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Used: Good

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Leon Plantinga
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