October 26, 2020
Beethoven's First Piano Concerto
A note from Jon Kimura Parker:
Here we are performing the finale to Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1. It’s a Rondo, meaning that the energetic opening music in the piano is firstly repeated by the orchestra, and after numerous excursions is always the point of return. My favorite of these excursions comes just before the 3-minute mark, when the piano takes the music in a distinctly jazzy direction; you could imagine hearing a klezmer clarinetist playing this music in a nightclub with no difficulty at all. It’s exuberant music, filled with joy and humor! It’s also highly challenging, with piano passages requiring lightning-quick hand crossings. Beethoven creates several opportunities for the pianist to improvise solo cadenzas, and although he wrote them out, I’ve embellished and added my own as pianists would have done in his day.
One can only imagine what Beethoven would think of all of this. That his music is being performed so much, even now when our logistic preparations have required extra imagination, would surely boggle his mind! Beethoven’s music continues to address the human spirit, and we as musicians are grateful to return to it again and again.
It’s an incredible privilege to perform this work with the Minnesota Orchestra, a group of musicians I have loved making music with for many decades. I knew that we would be recording separately, so we had to work out musical signals in advance, and I’m grateful for all of the technology behind the scenes to put it together. My pandemic hobby has been videography: I set up four cameras in my teaching studio at Rice University, including an overhead shot, in order to create the visual effect. My sister Liz Parker provided the painting that gives my shot some color.