LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Concert for piano and orchestra n. 3 in C minor op. 37
Symphonie fantastique op.14
Nicolò Ferdinando Cafaro
(winner of Premio Venezia 2022)
Opera Carlo Felice Genova Orchestra
Beethoven began writing his third concert for piano and orchestra during the last years of XVIII century, ultimately developing such a composition between 1800 and 1802. The premiere took plce in Vienna in 1803 featuring the same Beethoven as soloist pianist. The composer kept modifying his work even after the premiere. Therefore, the soloist part wasn not put in the score until its publishing for Bureau des Arts et d’Industrie in 1804.
The third concert acquired an almost immediate fame thanks to the incredible result Beethoven managed to achieve by uniting in a single piece three fundamental aspects of his artistic path and which would later influence enormously the Romantic school. The first aspect is a more symphonic concept than the concert form, drawing on the composer’s research drive about the orchestral writing (between 1802 and 1804 Beethoven was also working on his third symphony, theHeroic Symphony). The second aspect is the further broadening of the expressive possibilities on the piano. The pianistic composition owes greatly to the work of Beethoven, whose influence on its history embraces a compositive-artistic dimension as much as a technical-mechanic one. The third aspect is the importance of the dialogic dimension. More precisely, an even dialogue between orchestra and soloists. In such a case, Beethoven’s chamber music experience plays a relevant role; it is from compositions os this kind that such a structuring is set (a splendid example is represented by the sonatas for violin and piano, as in 1802 Beethoven started to write his Sonata for Kreutzer).
The concert begins with an assertive and driven Allegro con brio in C minor, highlightng from the start of the composition a sense of equal dialogue between piano and orchestra, here perfectly aligned and distinct at the same time in their sonic dimension. What renders such a movement particularly assertive is the absence of ornamental elements in favour of an almost total thematic affirmation. The Largo in E major presents more Romantic traits and shifts the dialogue on a more lyric layer, where the different parts reprise and give echo to each other and cancel that vibrant tension giving a propulsive force in the first as well as in the third movement. The final Rondò recalls the initial C minor with a pronounced humoristic shade. It constitutes the most virtuosic pianistic part, almost experimental at times. Orchestra and piano lively sustain each other’s expressive energy in an intense and joyful fashion.
With the Symphonie fantastique, composed during the first months 1830 and premiered on December 5 of the same year, Berlioz offers to eventually realize the long-imagined project of «an immense instrumental composition of a new genre». Being a Romantic composer, compositore romantico in senso stretto, Berlioz asseconda un forte impulso emotivo che nasce dal proprio vissuto, in particolare dalla tormentata passione per l’attrice irlandese Harriet Smithson. After she rejects him, Berlioz find peace only in artistic creation, loudly recalling literary references dear to the composer such as Shakespeare (whose role is given to the same Smithson in Paris) and Chateaubriand.
Berlioz decides to recover other materials of his composition that was never published or finished. There are two central elements for the complex rielaboration and unification process of the materials: on one hand, the use of a recurrent theme with the name of idée fixe (a proper predecessor of the Leitmotiv representing a great innovative element), continuously reprised and varied depending on the different sonic and emotional contexts. On the other hand, the choice of introducing a program described by the subtitle sottotitolo Episodio della vita di un artista(Episode of an artist’s life) giving continuity to the musical narration. The program pivots on an artist falling in love and then being disappointed by it, taking emotional shelter by smoking opium and experiencing his sentiments into an oneiric and ‘fantastic’ dimension. Berlioz maintains his stylistic signature and a classical symphonic structure, but the innovative feature is represented by the presence of a non-musical program defining genuinely musical elements. The program determins the introduction and the meaning of fixed idea – the thematic movement representing the artist’s loved one – determines the character of each movement, the writing and the singular musical choices. The Symphonie fantastique greatly affects how the XVIII-century symphonic music had developed, anticipating the birth and success of the symphonic poem genre which would soon see a very broad diffusion. Berlioz the è solo sul piano musicale che Berlioz incarna i tratti dell’artista romantico, il romanticismo è l’assioma fondamentale del suo approccio all’arte quanto alla vita – anche se è naturalmente difficile scindere, in questo caso, l’una dall’altra.
the program of the Symphonie fantastique è stato più volte modificato da Berlioz nel corso degli anni, qui di seguito è riportata la versione pubblicata nel 1845:
«First part.Dreams, passions. The author presumes that a young musician – affected by the moral evil called emptiness of passions by a renowned writer – sees for the first time a woman reuniting all the fascinating elements of the ideal being from his imagination, deeply falling in love with it. Due to a strange oddity, the loving image never presents to the spirit if not linked to a musical thought, where he finds a certain passionate, though noble and timid character he attributed to his loved one. Suc a melodic reflection and his model haunt him relentlessly as a double ossessive idea. This is the original point of the constant appearance of the melody starting the first Allegro and appearing throughout the whole symphony. The theme of the first piece is the passage from such a melancholic state of dreamy disposition, interrupted by some meaningless joyful moments, to a delirant passion leading to moments of rage, jealousy, tenderness, tears and consolation by faith.
Second part. A ball. The artist is conduced through the most diverse life circumstances: amid the uproar of a party, in the pacific contemplation of nature’s wonders. Nevertheless, everywhere in the cities, in the fields, such dear images upset his spirit.
Third part. Scene in the fields. One evening, while in the countryside, he hears two sheperds exchanging ranz des vaches from far away.; such a bucolic duo, such a place, the light rustling of trees in the wind, some brief reasons of hope he recently conceived, it all participates in calming his heart in an unusual way and in giving his ideas brighter colours. He reflects upon his solitude, hoping not to remain alone… But if she ever betrayed him!… Such a mixture of hope and fear, such ideas of happiness disturbed by cloudy omens form the argument of theAdagio. In the end, one of the two sheperds continues the ranz des vaches; the other sheperd doesn’t reply anymore… A distant sound of thunder… solitude… silence…
Fourth part. March towards agony. Once certain of the fact that his love has been rejected, the artist poisons himself with opium. Being too small to kill him, the dose of the narcotic substance leads him into a deep sleep tormented by horrible visions. He dreams of killing his loved one, of being sentenced to death and of assisting at his own executon. The parade performs a march alternating a dark and wild tone with a bright and solemn one, when a muffled sound of heavy steps happens suddenly after violent explosions. at the end of the march, the first four measures of the idèe fixe return as if it was one last loving memory interrputed by a fatal shot.
Fifth part.A night in the Sabba’s dream He sees himself at the Sabba, amid many horrible shadows and monsters reunited for his funeral. Strange noises, moans, laugh bursts, distant screams seemingly answered by other screams. The beloved melody returns, though without any of the noble and shy elements it once had; it is now no more than a mere tune of dance, trivial and grotesque, reaching the Sabba… A joyful roar when it arrives… Joining the evil orgy… Funeral tolling, a grotesque parody of Dies irae. Ronda del Sabba. La ronda del Sabba and the Dies irae together».