Nicolas Ellis, conductor
Charles Richard-Hamelin, piano
TSM Festival Orchestra
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 “Emperor”
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55, “Eroica”
Pairing two of Beethoven’s most expansive works makes for a deeply satisfying concert! One source of inspiration for both works was Beethoven’s feelings toward French leader Napoleon Bonaparte. At first, he admired Bonaparte for his belief in the humanitarian ideals of the French Revolution. But when Bonaparte crowned himself emperor in 1804, Beethoven’s feelings switched instantly to scorn. He had planned to dedicate the Third Symphony to Bonaparte, but instead he tore off the title page of the manuscript and rewrote it, with no mention of Bonaparte.
Beethoven composed the “Emperor” Concerto from 1808 to 1809, against the backdrop of Bonaparte’s rise to the zenith of his power. In May 1809, French troops besieged and captured Vienna. While Beethoven was composing this concerto, their regular artillery bombardments were chipping away at the last shreds of his hearing. He fled to his brother’s house and covered his ears with pillows to reduce the noise. Rather than reflecting his distress, this regal concerto is proud and defiant. Perhaps he intended it as a hopeful forecast of Bonaparte’s ultimate defeat, or a manifesto praising the virtues of the common man over those of a dictator.
Silver medalist and laureate of the Krystian Zimerman Prize at the 2015 International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin is one of the most important musicians of his generation. A reviewer for the Globe and Mail wrote of him, “At the end of a very long program of Chopin, he entranced his audience with the soft languor of his playing at one moment, passage-work that was always musical at another, bravura playing at yet another. He is an artist firmly on a unique and original path.”