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The Beethoven Piano Concertos: A Philharmonic Festival - Nos. 2 and 3

This concert is now past.
Location: Avery Fisher Hall (Directions)
Price Range: $28.00 - $122.00
Wed, Jun, 18, 2014
7:30 PM
Thu, Jun, 19, 2014
7:30 PM
Fri, Jun, 20, 2014
8:00 PM
Sat, Jun, 21, 2014
8:00 PM
Beethoven writes his Second Concerto as a showpiece for his virtuosity on the keyboard, but by the time he writes his Third Concerto his true genius is becoming apparent. Also: Songs by Sean Shepherd, praised for his “kaleidoscopic use of orchestral color” (The New York Times).

View other concerts in the Beethoven Piano Concerto Festival.
The 2014-15 Season

Program (Click the red play button to listen)


Piano Concerto No. 2

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.

Songs (World Premiere–New York Philharmonic Commission)

Commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Sean Shepherd approached Songs (2013) as “a piece that essentially starts and ends in the same place.” Designed as a sort of palindrome, it is also a journey both inward and outward, a sort of divertissement that links the two Beethoven works to each other. The final product is a single-movement piece in three parts, each representing the places where someone might sing a song — Fair, Chapel, and Cradle — and touches upon forms such as the chanson and rondo as initial points of reference. The Orchestra has previously presented Mr. Shepherd’s These Particular Circumstances in 2010 as part of CONTACT!, the new-music series, and Philharmonic musicians performed Aperture in Shift on the New York Philharmonic Ensembles series in 2011.

Piano Concerto No. 3

Piano Concerto No. 3 (1803)

Ludwig van Beethoven was notorious for not having works ready in time for performances. This was certainly the case with this concerto, a work "in progress," at best, at its first presentation. The composer conducted from the keyboard, while Ignaz von Seyfried turned pages: "I saw almost nothing but empty pages; at the most, on one page or another a few Egyptian hieroglyphs, wholly unintelligible to me, were scribbled down to serve as clues for him; for he played nearly all of the solo part from memory, since... he had not had time to set it all down on paper. He gave me a surreptitious nod whenever he was at the end of one of the invisible passages, and my scarcely concealable anxiety not to miss the decisive moment amused him greatly, and he laughed heartily at the jovial supper afterwards." The concerto was part of a benefit marathon for the composer himself in spring of 1803 that went on for hours, also including premieres of the Second Symphony, the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives, and a reprise of the Symphony No. 1. Despite the improvisations, the Piano Concerto No. 3 was a masterpiece that spoke with a new voice — a personal statement from the heart of its creator and a showcase for his prodigious pianistic abilities, but sadly also one of the last in which he saw himself as soloist: his increasing deafness would soon make ensemble playing nearly impossible. He uses the dramatic key of C Minor — one he turned to in other revolutionary works — and expands the orchestral introduction to a gargantuan 110 measures. And, when the piano finally announces its presence, it is with three crashing fortissimo chords. In the magnificent Largo, the partnership between soloist and orchestra is rich and melodious, although the primacy of the piano is never in question. The Allegro is robust and vibrant, with the final Presto bringing the concerto to a fast, furious, jubilant close.


Alan Gilbert

New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert began his tenure in September 2009. The first native New Yorker to hold the post, he has sought to make the Orchestra a point of pride for the city and country. As New York magazine wrote, “The Philharmonic and its music director Alan Gilbert have turned themselves into a force of permanent revolution.”

Mr. Gilbert and the Philharmonic have forged artistic partnerships, introducing the positions of The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence and The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence, held in the 2014–15 season by Christopher Rouse and violinist Lisa Batiashvili, respectively, as well as the new position of Artist-in-Association, inaugurated by Inon Barnatan this season; an annual festival, which this season is Dohnányi / Dvořák; CONTACT!, the new-music series; and the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, an exploration of today’s music by a wide range of contemporary and modern composers inaugurated in spring 2014.

In the 2014–15 season Alan Gilbert conducts the U.S. Premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Clarinet Concerto, a Philharmonic co-commission, alongside Mahler’s First Symphony; La Dolce Vita: The Music of Italian Cinema with Joshua Bell, Renée Fleming, and Josh Groban; Verdi’s Requiem; a staging of Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake featuring Oscar winner Marion Cotillard; World Premieres by John Adams, Peter Eötvös, and Christopher Rouse; works by contemporary Nordic composers during CONTACT!; and the Silk Road Ensemble and Yo-Yo Ma’s 15th-anniversary celebration. He concludes The Nielsen Project, the multi-year initiative to perform and record the Danish composer’s symphonies and concertos, the first release of which was named by The New York Times as among the Best Classical Music Recordings of 2012. The Music Director presides over the EUROPE / SPRING 2015 tour with stops including London, featuring Giants Are Small’s theatrical reimagining of Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka as part of the Orchestra’s second International Associate residency at the Barbican Centre; Cologne, where he leads the World Premiere of Peter Eötvös’s Senza sangue, a Philharmonic co-commission; and returns to Dublin and Paris.

Last season’s highlights included the inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL; Mozart’s three final symphonies; the U.S. Premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Frieze coupled with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; World Premieres; an all-Britten program celebrating the composer’s centennial; the score from 2001: A Space Odyssey as the film was screened; the ASIA / WINTER 2014 tour; and a staged production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd starring Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson. High points of Mr. Gilbert’s first four Philharmonic seasons included the critically celebrated productions of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre (2010) and Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen (2011) — both cited as the top cultural events of their respective years — as well as Philharmonic 360 at Park Avenue Armory (2012), the acclaimed spatial music program featuring Stockhausen’s Gruppen, and A Dancer’s Dream: Two Ballets by Stravinsky (2013, and later presented in movie theaters internationally). Other highlights included World Premieres of works by Magnus Lindberg, John Corigliano, Christopher Rouse, and composers featured on CONTACT!; Mahler’s Second Symphony, Resurrection, on A Concert for New York on September 10; Mr. Gilbert’s Philharmonic debut as violin soloist in J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins; five concerts at Carnegie Hall; six tours to Europe; and the Asia Horizons tour.

Conductor laureate of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and principal guest conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Symphony Orchestra, he regularly conducts leading orchestras nationally and internationally, such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Orchestra della Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. He has appeared at The Metropolitan, Los Angeles, Zurich, Royal Swedish, and Santa Fe opera companies. In 2014–15 he conducts the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra’s season-opening concerts and on tour in Lucerne, Berlin, and London; Mozart’s Don Giovanni at The Metropolitan Opera; and The Philadelphia, Munich Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, and NDR Symphony orchestras.

In September 2011 Alan Gilbert became Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at The Juilliard School, where he is also the first holder of Juilliard’s William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies. He made his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in 2008 leading John Adams’s Doctor Atomic; the DVD and Blu-ray of this production received the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. Renée Fleming’s recent Decca recording Poèmes, on which he conducted, received a 2013 Grammy Award. Earlier releases garnered Grammy Award nominations and top honors from the Chicago Tribune and Gramophone magazine.

Mr. Gilbert studied at Harvard University, The Curtis Institute of Music, and Juilliard and was assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra (1995–97). In May 2010 he received an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Curtis, and in December 2011 he received Columbia University’s Ditson Conductor’s Award for his “exceptional commitment to the performance of works by American composers and to contemporary music.” In 2014 he was elected to The American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Visit Alan Gilbert's Official Website

Learn more about Alan Gilbert



Yefim Bronfman by Dario Acosta

Grammy Award–winning pianist Yefim Bronfman is The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic during the 2013–14 season. Since his debut with the Philharmonic in May 1970, Mr. Bronfman has performed with the Orchestra on more than 55 occasions.

A highlight of Mr. Bronfman’s Philharmonic residency is The Beethoven Piano Concertos: A Philharmonic Festival, in which he will play the complete cycle, conducted by Alan Gilbert. His other activities include performances of concertos by Tchaikovsky and Magnus Lindberg, and appearances in CONTACT!, the new-music series; a chamber recital at 92nd Street Y; and the ASIA /WINTER 2014 tour.

Mr. Bronfman is widely regarded as one of the world’s most talented virtuoso pianists. His 2012–13 season included concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic (with Simon Rattle) in Berlin, Salzburg, and at the London Proms; appearances with the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich (with David Zinman) and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra; a yearlong residency with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra; and appearances with the Vienna Philharmonic (with Michael Tilson Thomas) in Vienna and London. In North America he returned to the orchestras of Chicago, Dallas, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Montreal.

Mr. Bronfman has been widely praised for his solo, chamber, and orchestral recordings. He was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009 for his recording of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Piano Concerto, conducted by the composer (Deutsche Grammophon), and he won a Grammy in 1997 for his recording of Bartók’s three Piano Concertos with Mr. Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Born in Tashkent, in the Soviet Union, in 1958, Yefim Bronfman emigrated to Israel with his family in 1973. There he studied with pianist Arie Vardi, head of the Rubin Academy of Music at Tel Aviv University. He later studied in the United States at The Juilliard School, Marlboro Music Festival, and The Curtis Institute of Music; his teachers included Rudolf Firkušný, Leon Fleisher, and Rudolf Serkin. He became an American citizen in July 1989. 

Learn more about Yefim Bronfman

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Special Thanks

This Philharmonic Festival is made possible with major underwriting from Laura Chang and Arnold Chavkin.

Generous sponsorship is provided by Yoko Nagae Ceschina.

Additional support is provided by an anonymous donor.

Yefim Bronfman is The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence.

Photo of : Dario Acosta

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