“Sundays at Soka”: Stunning Performance of Beethoven’s “Emperor” by Joyce Yang; plus his Triple Concerto

Joyce YangBeethoven’s regal, heroic Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor”—the centerpiece of Pacific Symphony’s next “Sundays at Soka” performance—is considered to be the most famous piano concerto of all time. From simple beauty to dazzling grandeur, the legendary master’s famous work requires extreme virtuosity from its soloist, making it an ideal vehicle for renowned Korean pianist Joyce Yang, of whom the Dallas Morning News wrote: “[Yang] glittered and roared… feisty and ever witty.” The concert completes a season dedicated to Beethoven’s piano concertos with a performance that includes the titan’s Triple Concerto—performed by the Faktura Piano Trio, comprised of pianist Hye-Jin Kim, violinist Fabiola Kim, violin and cellist Ben Salomonov.

Joyce Yang“Sundays at Soka’ offer 70-minute informal concerts hosted and conducted by the Symphony’s Music Director Carl St.Clair, who discusses the presented works in a friendly environment of listening and learning. This final concert of the series’ 2016-17 season takes place Sunday, April 30, at 3 p.m. at Soka Performing Arts Center located in Aliso Viejo. Tickets are $50 for adults and $40 for students, seniors and active military families. For more details and ticket information, call 949-480-4ART (4278) or CLICK HERE.

Hailed by The Washington Post for her “poetic and sensitive pianism… capable of hurtling thunderbolts,” Yang captivates audiences across the globe with her virtuosity, lyricism and magnetic stage presence. Having first came to international attention in 2005 when she won the silver medal at the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Yang, as the youngest contestant, took home two additional awards: the Steven De Groote Memorial Award for Best Performance of Chamber Music (with the Takàcs Quartet) and the Beverley Taylor Smith Award for Best Performance of a New Work. In 2010, she received an Avery Fisher Career Grant, one of classical music’s most prestigious accolades.

Joyce YangBeethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto opens with exalted solo flourishes. No other piano concerto is more beloved, and none more powerfully combines nobility of expression with sublime beauty than Beethoven’s “Emperor.” The composer completed the work in 1811, about one year before his Seventh Symphony. For lovers of Beethoven’s music, the “Emperor” Concerto is perhaps the cornerstone of fandom. Most professional pianists consider it mandatory to include in their personal repertory.

While Beethoven greatly admired Mozart’s piano concertos with their sense of spontaneity and delight, he did not pursue these qualities in his own concertos. Instead, they get progressively weightier, until the Fifth delivers some of the noblest music ever written. Although the concerto will always be linked to Napoleon, who was emperor at the time, the nickname more aptly describes Beethoven’s elevated expression and his musical exploration of the individual (soloist) versus society (the orchestra). Beethoven felt passionately about human freedom and the ideals of the Enlightenment, and saw Napoleon as a champion of the common man who betrayed this noble cause by using the power and privileges of monarchy for his own gain. Beethoven famously intended to dedicate his “Eroica” Symphony to Napoleon, but furiously crossed out his name on the title page.

As for Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano, little is known about it. The composer’s early biographer Anton Schindler claimed that the Triple was written for Beethoven’s royal pupil, the Archduke Rudolf of Austria. The Archduke, who became an accomplished pianist and composer under Beethoven, was only in his mid-teens at the time, and it seems likely that Beethoven’s intention was to create a showy but relatively easy piano part that would be backed up by two more mature and skilled soloists. However, there is no record of Rudolf ever performing the work. It was not publicly premiered until 1808, in Vienna, and when it was published, the concerto bore a dedication to a different patron.

Unlike the “Emperor,” the Triple Concerto does not make great demands on the listener. Beethoven’s pupil Carl Czerny characterized the Triple Concerto this way: “Grand, tranquil, harmonious and lively.” In this music Beethoven is not hitting his listener over the head with new ideas; instead, the Triple Concerto could be taken for a piece of salon music written for an evening’s entertainment. Its most innovative aspect is the more difficult and central role of the cello, which Beethoven used to introduce many of the themes in the Triple Concerto.”