Typically iconoclastic, it opens with a solo piano theme that is answered by the orchestra, before a more traditional ritornello follows – based on the piano theme. The second movement, one of Beethoven’s finest, is a dialogue between an initially angry and strident orchestra and a serene piano that eventually dominates – soothing the orchestra.
The final Rondo is a joyous romp. For this recording, pianist Roland Brautigam uses a newly revised score for the outer movements that includes annotations by the composer in 1808, eventually deciphered in 1994. The overall effect of these changes is minimal. Towards the end of 1806, Beethoven also wrote his only Violin Concerto for Franz Clement, which is another strikingly original work with its opening timpani strikes. In 1808, at the request of pianist/composer Muzio Clementi, Beethoven transcribed it for piano.
Unfortunately much of the piano transcription is a straight repetition of the violin part with little or no harmonic addition. This can be a little disconcerting for the listener used to the violin version. The cadenzas, however, were newly composed by Beethoven and probably contain the most interesting music in the concerto. Brautigam gives a characteristically reliable performance and the Norrköping Orchestra are enthusiastic partners.