Hard to believe, but Beethoven’s Violin Concerto was received coolly at its première in 1806. Almost immediately Beethoven reworked it as a piano concerto. Thus, the work performed by Howard Shelley in this concert is every bit as authentic as Beethoven’s other piano concertos, but not as well known. Oddly enough, audiences in Beethoven’s day probably knew the Violin Concerto better as a piano concerto, as the original languished in obscurity until well after the composer’s death.
When asked to name the greatest living composer, Beethoven replied without hesitation: Cherubini. The overture to Cherubini’s opera Médée sets the scene for the high drama of the ancient Greek tale of Medea and Jason. Likewise dramatic is Schubert’s youthful Fourth Symphony, which is in the same key as Beethoven’s Fifth – C minor – and bears the imprint of the rich symphonic tradition of Haydn and Mozart.