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BEETHOVEN PREMIÈRE?

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MALCOLM MILLER evaluates the chamber version
of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto,
premièred recently in London

 

The UK première of a work by Beethoven in 2001 seems unlikely, all the more so of something as well-known as the Fourth Piano Concerto. But while a chamber reduction has been known about for a long time, it is only since the recent discovery and reconstruction of the work by a leading Beethoven scholar that a modern performance has been feasible. Thus it is not a surprise that the UK première, performed superbly by Mûza Rubackyté and the Vilnius String Quartet with Vinciane Beranger, viola, in a concert by the Mill Hill Music Club, at London's Harrow Arts Centre on Sunday 22 April attracted a large and avidly curious audience. The Mill Hill Music Club, directed by Walter Felman, is one of the most adventurous music clubs in Britain which has provided platforms for many leading artists, such as Ashkenazy, at the start of their careers, and it may now add to its credits the première of a major discovery.

Some historical context will clarify: the arrangement was reconstructed in 1995 by Hans Werner Kuethen, a scholar at the Beethoven House in Bonn, during the course of preparing an edition of the concertos. Kuethen based his research on Beethoven's annotations to the solo piano copied by Josef Klumpar (the earliest extent source), and on which are also markings by Possinger -- a well known arranger of Beethoven's works at the time. Hitherto the annotations were considered merely sketches, but Kuethen matched the markings up with a set of parts for string quintet copied by Wanzel Rampi, copyist to Prince Lobkowitz, in whose palace the original concerto was premièred in 1807. According to Kuethen, therefore, the parts were for intended for a chamber arrangement for Lobkowitz, with a revision of the solo part, though there is no documentary evidence of its performance at that time.

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Copyright © 28 April 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK

 

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MÛZA RUBACKYTÉ'S LONDON RECITAL

KUETHEN'S STUDY AND RELATED RESEARCH IS FEATURED IN THE LATEST ISSUE OF ARIETTA, JOURNAL OF THE BPSE

 

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