Of his five piano concertos, Beethoven: piano concerto no 5 in E♭ major, Op. 73, popularly known as the Emperor Concerto, stands out in particular. Triumphant, belligerent, it is the most accomplished.
It was Beethoven’s last completed piano concerto and the only concerto that Beethoven did not play in public. He dedicated it to Archduke Rudolph, his patron and pupil.
Beethoven was very much straddling the divide between the Classical and Romantic eras when he wrote this concerto. So he broke some of conventional boundaries – almost as if he write a new kind of music. In addition, it was his longest concerto.
Beethoven challenges preconceptions by having no orchestral introduction – the piano crashes in with a powerful chord underpinned by the orchestra – and, in the slow movement which flows directly, uses just one theme instead of several.
This is cleverly linked, without pause, to the rollicking finale in which Beethoven finds time to quote a popular folk tune of the day!
Beethoven began his work on this piece in 1809 and finished it in 1811. Because his profound deafness prevented his own performance of the solo part (he feared making mistakes and playing too many wrong not), the honour fell to a 25-year-old church organist, Friedrich Schneider to play it in a public concert.
The piece quickly won for itself a place in the piano repertoire. Also it became a great favourite of Franz Liszt.
Why is Beethoven: piano concerto no 5 called ‘The Emperor’?
There is no definitive answer to this question. However, The nickname “Emperor” was not given to this work by Beethoven. There are a number of stories about how Beethoven: piano concerto no 5 got the name “Emperor”.
According to one, the work’s nickname derived from a comment made by a French soldier from Napoleon’s army, who was stationed in Vienna at the time. It was ‘an emperor of a concerto’, the man supposedly exclaimed. Indeed it was. And the name has stuck ever since.
Others attribute the name to the fact the piece is very musically “big” and imposing, much like an emperor, or Maybe The nickname was coined by Johann Baptist Cramer, the English publisher of the concerto.
Lang Lang – Emperor concerto
Chinese-born pianist Lang Lang was born on 14 June 1982 (age 37 years). He first started playing the piano at the tender age of three, By five he had given his first public recital.
In 1995, he won first prize at the Tchaikovsky International Young Musicians Competition. Lang Lang is now heralded as ‘the hottest artist on the classical music planet’ by the New York Times and is currently worth an estimated $30 million. Lang Lang married fellow pianist half-German, half-Korean Gina Alice Redlinger in June 2019, in an enviably glamorous ceremony in France.
In the video down below, The superstar pianist Lang Lang performs the Emperor Concerto.