Happy Birthday, Ludwig Van!

Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto

Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Con­cer­to, Op. 73 (excerpt)
[audio:Emperor_Beginning.mp3]

Today would have been Lud­wig van Beethoven’s 238th birth­day. Even though he only lived to the age of 56,  a life­time of 238 years would have been fine with me, if he could have kept writ­ing music.

The piece and excerpt above are from his Fifth Piano Con­cer­to, some­times called the ‘Emper­or’ Con­cer­to, which he wrote between 1808 and 1809 for the Arch­duke Rudolph of Aus­tria. This open­ing, no mat­ter how many times I hear it, is always fas­ci­nat­ing. To begin the piece with these big, loud chords, with the strands of what sounds like a free impro­vi­sa­tion strung from col­umn to col­umn until it final­ly takes off, like a car shift­ing into dri­ve, is such a fan­tas­tic idea, and so arrest­ing, that I’d be hard-pressed to come up with many oth­er pieces of music that are both as star­tling and ulti­mate­ly satisfying…and not writ­ten by the same guy.

Here’s to one of the great­est, 238 years lat­er, still shout­ing beau­ty.