LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1793-1795)
Perhaps, with somewhat false humility, the Ludwig van Beethoven had told his publisher that this was “a piano concerto which, to be sure, I do not claim to be among my best,” and apologized to the printer for his “not very legible handwriting.” Though the composer had lived in Vienna for only two years and had performed mainly private concerts in the salons of the nobility, he had already made a name for himself as a pianist, and the public was eager to hear him. The Second Piano Concerto was premiered at a charity event for widows and orphans in 1795, with Beethoven as the soloist—his public debut—and with the solo part not fully written out. He worked on the score until the last minute, completing it a mere two days before the performance—a situation that would be repeated with other compositions in future years. At his rooms, copyists were literally waiting for Beethoven to write out the parts. When he was going off to Vienna to study with Haydn in 1792, his patron Count Ferdinand von Waldstein wrote in the young man’s autograph book: “May you receive Mozart’s spirit from the hands of Haydn.” True to this prophetic wish, this Concerto is indeed strongly reminiscent of the Mozart piano concertos that Beethoven admired, though perhaps with a more robust orchestration and a bit more drama; for while he admired his predecessor, he wanted to make his own mark, independent of Mozart’s influence. Despite its number, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 was actually composed first, but withheld from publication until 1801 while it was undergoing frequent and considerable revisions; in the meantime, his Piano Concerto No. 1, second in order of composition, already had been published.