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  • David Kiser

Music for On The Keys 613: May 2, 2024

Updated: May 6

Thursdays at 8 pm on SCPR Classical Stations. 90.1 Greenville and parts of North Carolina and Georgia. 89. 3 Charleston. 91.3 Columbia. Find the live playlist and listen live online here:

I am thrilled to share Brett Dean's new Piano Concerto on this show with Jonathan Biss at the piano. This is volume one of his Beethoven/5 project where he pairs/commissions a contemporary concerto with one of the 5 Beethoven concertos. The new piece like the Dean on this program draws inspiration and sometimes copy and pastes from the Beethoven. These are coming out on Orchid Classics.

A huge commendation for the liner notes. We have both thoughts from the composer and from Biss.

Here's what Dean writes about his piano concerto:

Back in 2013 I had the great pleasure of spending a summer in Lower Austria as composer-in-residence of the Grafenegg Festival. On a free afternoon, my wife and I went for a drive along the Danube River and found ourselves waylaid by an intriguing road-sign pointing towards a “Beethovenhaus” in the small village of Gneixendorf. We then discovered what has to be one of the most mysteriously fascinating episodes in the life of Ludwig van Beethoven.
Having accepted an invitation from his brother Johann and sister-in-law Theresia to spend some time away from Vienna at their spacious Landhaus, Ludwig van Beethoven and his troubled nephew, Karl, arrived in Gneixendorf in late September of 1826. After only a few days, a heated argument between Ludwig and his brother led Beethoven to leave his brother’s house and take up rooms at a nearby house owned by the wealthy businessman, Ignaz Wissgrill. Beethoven ended up staying in the house at Schlossstrasse 19 for more than two months, going for regular walks and composing his final string quartet, op.135, as well as completing revisions and metronome markings for his 9th Symphony. He returned to Vienna on December 1st on an open horse-drawn carriage in freezing conditions. He never fully recovered from the severe pneumonia contracted on that journey and the ailing composer succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver the following March.
My piano concerto takes this unexpected and memorable brush with cultural history as one of its starting points. As the last of Jonathan Biss’s set of commissions for his Beethoven/5 Project, it’s conceived as a response to Beethoven’s remarkable final piano concerto, the “Emperor”.

While I think this is a very good piece especially the first movement, as a whole and taken out of context the Beethoven supplies it may not enter the repertoire of very many pianists.

Six Piano Pieces, Op. 118 Brahms, Radul Lupu, Hunter College 1974

This. Not good sound, but one of the freshest most interesting takes on these overdone pieces by Brahms. Whole new worlds open up. I don't understand the tepid applause at the end. I figure the audience doesn't quite understand what it is hearing.

That's it for this show. Have a musical week. What are your favorite recordings of Op. 118?

-David Kiser


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