Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto

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San Francisco Symphony


Piano Concerto No. 3

Ludwig van Beethoven

An Alpine Symphony

Richard Strauss


Strauss' An Alpine Symphony

All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.
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Davies Symphony Hall

Thu, Apr 12, 2018 at 5:00PM

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Davies Symphony Hall

Fri, Apr 13, 2018 at 11:00PM

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Davies Symphony Hall

Sat, Apr 14, 2018 at 11:00PM

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Event Description

Typically synonymous with scowling, revolutionary power, Beethoven’s soulful side glows in the elegance, triumph, and wit of his Piano Concerto No. 3. Beethoven’s composition sealed his reputation as a creative genius and set the stage for the Romantic era. Experience this pivotal work performed by award-winning pianist Paul Lewis and the SF Symphony. Then, hear R. Strauss’ An Alpine Symphony, a musical travelogue of a marvelous expedition through the Alps.

The Thursday Matinee concerts are endowed by a gift in memory of Rhoda Goldman.

At a Glance

Piano Concerto No. 3
 1803  |  34 mins
When it came to melodies, rhythmic gestures, and phrasing, Beethoven held Mozart most dear. Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K.491, is a brooding work that was a favorite of the Romantic generation of listeners. Beethoven was one of its great admirers and was heavily influenced by its opening movement when he came to write his Third Piano Concerto. Many believe this piece is the first of his five piano concertos really to sound like the mature Beethoven. DID YOU KNOW? The work also reflects an important technological advance. In the final decades of the eighteenth century, manufacturers were beginning to stretch the piano’s range by incorporating keys beyond the instrument’s then-standard five-octave range. In his C minor Piano Concerto, Beethoven makes full use of this new technology, and he asks his soloist to play all the way up to high G. This concerto is thought to be the first piano piece ever to call for that particular note. By the time Beethoven got around to writing out the piano part for one of his students in 1804, he was emboldened to push the range further, all the way up to the C that sits above the fifth ledger line above the treble staff. His C minor Concerto stands not only as a great work in its own right, but also as a document relating to the adolescent growing pains of the piano itself.

An Alpine Symphony
  1915  |  52 mins
For An Alpine Symphony Strauss adopts a narrative that embraces both a literary source and autobiographical events. Autobiographically it represents an ardent celebration of nature—of nature at its most awe-inspiring, as epitomized by a day of mountain climbing in the Alps. It also indirectly draws on a philosophical essay of Friedrich Nietzsche entitled Der Antichrist. Engrossed in soul-searching after the death of his friend Gustav Mahler, Strauss wrote in his diary in 1911: “I shall call my alpine symphony: Der Antichrist, since it represents: moral purification through one’s own strength, liberation through work, worship of eternal, magnificent nature.” An Alpine Symphony ultimately unrolls as a detailed piece of landscape tone-painting that the listener can enjoy thoroughly without getting wrapped up in philosophical implications. PICTURE THIS: The action unrolls from the pre-dawn of a new-born day through nightfall, and in the course of twenty-two discrete episodes the listener goes up the mountain and down again, encountering along the way a catalogue of natural features one might expect to find on such a journey—forests, streams, meadows, and so on—as well as a hunting party (in the “Sunrise”), some close calls (a slippery “perilous moment” and a violent storm), a spectacular view from the summit, and a glowing dusk and a post-sunset return home.

Jeanette Yu is Director of Publications at the San Francisco Symphony.


Concert Extras

Inside Music, an informative talk by Scott Foglesong, begins one hour prior to concerts. Free to ticketholders. Learn More.

The Prelude Series: A Pre-Concert Discussion
An engaging new way to enhance your classical music experience at Davies Symphony Hall. Join us 45 minutes before the performance in the First Tier Lobby to take part in a free pre-concert discussion
Discussion topic: Musical Metamorphoses

Guest artist signing: Pianist Paul Lewis will be available for autographs following the April 12 and 13 concerts. Signing takes place in the orchestra lobby, near the Symphony Store.

Ravel in America
Discover more about the life and work of composer Maurice Ravel and his connection to the San Francisco Symphony in a special exhibition located on the First Tier. Learn More.

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