In honor of Beethoven’s 240th birthday, I have chosen a piece that occupies a special place in my heart. The “Emperor” concerto was one of the very first pieces of classical music that I came to know and love. In 1963, when my passion for classical music was just beginning to bloom, my parents happened to own the RCA Victor recording of Van Cliburn playing this concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Fritz Reiner. One of the few classical albums in the house, this one got played a lot!
The soloist in this video is the Italian-Swedish pianist Manlio Giordano. This concert marked a proud moment in Manlio’s career: it was his first solo performance with orchestra. Given that circumstance, he plays with remarkable self-possession and maturity. Unlike many soloists, he never distracts the audience’s attention from the music. His tone is never harsh or forced; in fact, he plays this most joyful concerto with an extraordinary – almost Mozartean – delicacy. Most important, his interpretation owes nothing to other pianists; on the contrary, he plays with astonishing individuality. Although artists tend to be notoriously self-critical, I would hope that on this occasion at least, Manlio was well-satisfied with his playing.
This performance took place on October 28, 2001 in Luleå, Sweden, where the Luleå Orchestra was conducted by Hans Ek.
Maxine Frost, whose portrait of the young Beethoven I have reproduced above, is one of the many fine announcers at KING FM in Seattle. You can find more wonderful examples of her artwork at her blog “Crazy for the Composers” at http://www.maxinefrost.com/blogengine.net/