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THE BEETHOVEN JOURNEY Ludwig van beethoven Piano Concerto no. 1 op. 15 in C major Igor StrawinskyApollon Musagète ludwig van beethoven Piano Concerto no. 3 op. 37 in C minor Leader and Piano Leif Ove Andsnes
Over a period of three years, the MCO and the Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes are devoting themselves to a Beethoven cycle. The five piano concertos plus the Choral Fantasy are being presented across extensive concert tours and released on CD by Sony Classical. Leif Ove Andsnes will lead the concertos from the keyboard. During each tour, Beethoven's piano compositions will be contrasted by Igor Stravinsky's orchestral works. The project will culminate in the 2014/15 season, when the complete cycle will be presented in around ten music centres internationally.
The first stage of The Beethoven Journey leads the MCO and Leif Ove Andsnes from Brescia to Lugano, Turin, Bergamo, Dresden and Prague, where the recordings for the first CD take place. The tour ends in the Norwegian city of Bergen - something of a home game for Leif Ove Andsnes, who studied in the Nordic harbour city and still has a base there today. The first CD recording will appear on Sony Classical in September 2012. In November, Leif Ove Andsnes and the MCO set out on the second part of their shared journey.
Engaging with Beethoven's compositions for piano and orchestra means discovering Beethoven's fundamental existence as an artist and musician: the piano was, after all, his own instrument. As a virtuoso and composer, Beethoven knew the piano inside out. When he moved from Bonn to the musical metropolis of Vienna as a young musician, he first wanted to conquer the city as a stage artist, and clearly dedicated his first two piano concertos to this purpose. Indeed these concertos, led by Beethoven as piano soloist, brought him the desired success among audiences and critics. Although Beethoven gradually shifted his attentions to composing, it was for him a tragedy when his deteriorating hearing forced him to give up on his stage career, and he was unable to perform the last of his five piano concertos. In the 18 years between its composition and his death in 1827, he wrote no further works for piano and orchestra.
Another part of The Beethoven Journey is a new education project: in Feel the Music the MCO follows up on the theme of music and deafness. Together with the British organisation Music and the Deaf, the MCO and Leif Ove Andsnes are leading deaf and hearing-impaired children into the world of the orchestra, letting them explore music through hearing, feeling and creating. The first phase of the project takes place right at the starting point of The Beethoven Journey, with 15 fifteen children from the integrated Scuola Audiofonetica in Brescia taking part.
About the programme
Beethoven's Piano Concerto in C major op. 15 appeared as "no. 1" despite originating chronologically after his Piano Concerto no. 2 in B-flat major. It is heavily influenced by Mozart's grand, sophisticated concerto style, as well as demonstrating the beginnings of Beethoven's own personal style. Beethoven contrasts the vibrant, brilliant solo part against an orchestra strengthened by clarinets, trumpets and timpani. Striding harmonic modulations and delicate, poetic sound worlds surprise and delight the audience.
Igor Stravinsky's ballet Apollon Musagète for string orchestra is a Ballet Blanc in two tableaux, in which dramatic action is reduced to a minimum in favour of dance. The first scene shows the birth of the god Apollo. The second consists of solo dances for Apollo and the three muses Calliope, Polyhymnia and Terpsichore. They are instructed in their arts by Apollo and, in the final apotheosis, led by him to Parnassus.
Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 3 in C minor op. 37 marks the peak of Beethoven's career as a virtuoso and at the same time a turning point: from this concerto on, compositional accomplishment is brought to the fore, and the piano concerto becomes a symphony with a solo piano part.