<< -- 2 -- Robert Anderson MUSICAL IMPRESSION
Another youngest son, of Leopold II and also destined for the church, was
Archduke Rudolph, who amassed an astonishing total of Beethoven dedications,
including the last two piano concertos, the 'Archduke' trio, 'Hammerklavier'
sonata and finally the Missa solemnis, embarked on for the Archduke's
instalment as cardinal-archbishop of Olmütz (now in the Czech Republic)
but completed three years too late. The Archduke was a gifted musician, taking
piano, theory and composition lessons from Beethoven. When hardly more than
twenty, he joined two other nobles in providing Beethoven with a pension for
life. The piano part of the Triple Concerto was probably designed for the
young Archduke; it was certainly the case with the last violin sonata, Op 96.
As dedicatee, he gave the first performance with Jacques Rode
[listen -- track 3, 0:00-1:22]. Whether the Scherzo
went equally deftly at the première one cannot know; possibly the original
players managed a more legato line at the start of the Adagio than the present team.
Beethoven claimed to Goethe that he had rapped Rudolph over the knuckles for
keeping him waiting in an anteroom, and doubtless the composition lessons became
increasingly irksome. But the Archduke persisted so as to leave a considerable body
of work, mainly for piano or chamber combinations. Like Beethoven, Schubert and
many others, he was invited to submit a 'Diabelli' variation, and managed an
improbable fugue out of the commonplace little waltz. More important is his set
of variations on a theme by Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, nephew of Frederick
the Great, who received compliments from Beethoven as a pianist as well as the
dedication of Piano Concerto No 3. He was killed three days before the battle
of Jena. There is a certain irony, in view of Russia's being joined by both Austria
and Prussia in eliminating Poland from the map of Europe, that one of the most
attractive variations is a Polacca
[listen -- track 27, 0:00-1:07].
The infectious zest of the playing is characteristic of much of the CD.