One of the great things about the internet, it seems to me, is the way it can lead you to discoveries that you might otherwise never have made. Much of the music and many of the musicians I have featured on this blog were just such discoveries. This video of Beethoven’s 4th concerto is another, and therein lies a story…
A little over a week ago, I was listening to Marc-Andre Hamelin’s performance of the Berg Sonata that I featured last month. When the video ended, there appeared on my screen a link to a performance of the same sonata by French pianist Hélène Grimaud. I clicked on it, and while listening, happened to see another link, this one to a documentary about Ms. Grimaud entitled “Living with Wolves”. Who could resist that? I clicked again, and watched the entire video, all 55 minutes of it. (That documentary, which is fascinating, can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O23tQPJ9ZbY.)
A short segment of “Living with Wolves” made an especially strong impression on me. At 28:16 there is an excerpt from the second movement of Beethoven’s 4th piano concerto. I was struck immediately by the intimacy of Ms. Grimaud’s conception. I have heard many pianists perform this movement, but I have never heard the dialog between piano and orchestra rendered so movingly. The pleading of the piano, set against the stern remonstrations of the orchestra, is particularly memorable. I knew right away that I had made a great discovery, one that I wanted to share with readers of this blog.
In “Living with Wolves”, Ms. Grimaud comments about this concerto as follows:
The Beethoven 4th Concerto for me is just one of the most beautiful things ever written for piano and orchestra, and I really believe to this day is still one of the most original ones. I mean, if you think about how the concerto starts, which for the time was a revolution, with the piano beginning the piece, and then of course the format of the second movement, and this dialog, it really remains one of the most incredible things ever written. And it has a special place in my heart amongst the five concerti. It’s for me the most – this is going to sound bizarre – the most different. They’re all different, of course, but this one really stands aside in the quality of expression and the sort of philosophical quality to the concerto. For me, it’s a concerto that takes place already beyond the basic human emotions, unlike the other four.
I can add only that Ms. Grimaud’s feelings about this concerto are captured beautifully in this video. And to think I might never have heard it, or of Hélène Grimaud for that matter, if not for YouTube and the internet. Truly, these are great days we live in!
In this performance, Christoph Eschenbach conducts the Orchestre de Paris in 2001 at the Royal Albert Hall in London.