Piano Concerto no. 2 in B flat major, op. 19

I. Allegro con brio II. Adagio III. Rondo. Molto allegro


On December fifteenth, 1800, Beethoven wrote a letter to his friend, the composer and music publisher F. A. Hoffmeister, who had recently moved from Vienna to Leipzig. Beethoven was offering Hoffmeister “a concerto for the piano, which I do not claim to be one of my best … However, it will not disgrace you to publish it.” Maybe Beethoven was a bit harsh on this concerto, now known as No. 2 in B flat major, on which he had worked, off and on, for an unusually long period of time. The first sketches go back to the Bonn years, that is, before 1792, and the concerto, premiered in 1795, underwent further revisions until the time of publication. (The C major concerto was written later but was published before the B flat major, thereby becoming Concerto No. 1.)


Although clearly indebted to Mozart's concertos, this concerto immediately makes it clear why and how this young pianist composer conquered the Viennese music scene so soon after his arrival. Who else could have handled the Mozartian concerto form with such  originality and imagination?


Innovative moments in the concerto include an extended digression into the minor mode shortly after the beginning, and the frequent repetitions of musical motives a half-step higher, something we find in many later Beethoven works as well. In the solo section, the lyrical melodic element predominates, although there are plenty of virtuoso passages and a few powerful percussive spots. In 1809, the year of the Emperor Concerto, Beethoven wrote a cadenza for this movement in his typical middle-period style; the cadenza treats the main theme contrapuntally before bursting into brilliant figurations.


The second movement (Adagio) begins softly, with a lyrical cantabile (singing) melody, but, in typical Beethovenian fashion, the volume reaches fortissimo already in the sixth measure. The simple melody receives lavish ornamentation from the solo piano, which plays a remarkable written out quasi cadenza at the end of this movement. This passage, preceded by the familiar chord (known as “6 4”) that always introduces cadenzas, is marked “con gran espressione” (with great expression) and “senza sordino.” The latter instruction (“without damper”) means that the passage has to be played with the right pedal pressed down to release the damper and allow the strings to keep on sounding. (The same effect was later used in the “Moonlight” sonata.)


The most striking feature of the finale's main theme is its rhythm with a short eighth note on the downbeat followed by a longer quarter note marked sforzando (accented). Such irregular accents were to remain central to Beethoven's idiom; in this instance, their piquancy is increased by a variation introduced later in the movement;” at one point, the eighth note is shifted from the downbeat to the previous upbeat – a subtle but very noticeable difference. For the rest, the finale is a regular sonata rondo in which this bouncy rondo theme alternates with a more placid second subject and with a fiery central episode in G minor.

100 évesek vagyunk