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Mario Lanza

Music Of The Gods - Beethoven's Emperor Concerto


By Lindsay Perigo


Beethoven's 5th and final concerto is one of the crowning glories not just of Romanticism in music but of Western Civilisation itself. "Emperor" is a fitting sobriquet, though it is doubtful Beethoven approved (it was not his idea) because of the endorsement such a title would have implied of Napoleon, with whom Beethoven had become disillusioned when Bonaparte assumed the moniker of a monarch.

The Emperor was written between 1809 and 1811. Beethoven was too deaf by its completion to play for its premiere, as he had for his previous concertos; that honour fell to 25-year-old Leipzig church organist Friedrich Schneider. It became a favourite of the great Franz Liszt, and to this day remains among the most frequently-performed works in the entire Romantic repertoire. It is incontestable testament to the supremacy of the Romantic genre. It gets an LVSR (Linz Value-Swoon Rating) of twenty out of ten. Smiling

Freddy Kempf says the Emperor, while now being rivaled for his affections by the 3rd Concerto, was "for a long time my unequivocal favourite, mostly on account of its breathtaking second movement." Leonard Bernstein used the 2nd movement's opening strains as the basis of the song "Somewhere" in West Side Story. The movement was used in the movie Dead Poets Society under a pivotal conversation between Neil Perry and Mr. Keating, and in the TV adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron as an example of the kind of genius that must never be allowed to raise its beautiful head again in the brutally egalitarian society that has been wrought:

We conclude our Beethoven-fest, a prelude to Freddy's in New Zealand, with the Emperor Concerto performed by Krystian Zimerman and conducted by Leonard Bernstein. I have tried to find an ad-free posting of this; I apologise in advance if ads have been inserted since I last checked it.