Pianist Lars Vogt is performing as soloist with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Also featured are Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 and the overture to Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser, all under the inspirational direction of the Finnish maestro Paavo Järvi.
Beethoven wrote his virtuoso Piano Concerto No. 2 as a vehicle to showcase his ability as a young pianist. The later Beethoven’s bravura can already be heard clearly within the classical structure of the work. At his debut in Vienna in 1795, the concerto was a triumph, and Beethoven would perform it many times. As a composer, he outgrew the work so quickly that he flogged it to his publisher for half the price of a sonata, although he did add subtly, ‘It will certainly not be a disaster for you if you publish it.’
Johannes Brahms had such respect for Beethoven that he could hardly get up the nerve to compose symphonies of his own. He would eventually go on to write four of them, however. The Fourth is considered to be the high point of his œuvre and is like a microcosm showcasing his mastery of the symphonic medium. The outer movements contain so many ideas that they could almost be characterised as free-standing symphonies in their own right. In the Fourth, we hear several nods to Brahms’s great idol Beethoven, while the finale is an ode to Bach.
The concert opens with the overture to Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser, which is all about amorous adventures at a medieval song contest.