That’s just a silly bit of titling, really. Last week, I saw Emmanuel Ax and the National Symphony Orchestra play Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto (for piano and orchestra), followed by an Ax-less performance of Beethoven’s Third Symphony. That’s the Eroica (not the Erotica; check your CD cover more closely and you’ll see that I’m right).
Both are nicely epic pieces. I’m not a good enough judge of piano playing to really know, but it was obvious that Ax conveyed great feeling through those keys. The orchestral moments felt like a massive tide of humanity’s emotions crashing and the piano as Beethoven’s personal, passionate dialogue with humanity.
The Third Symphony, which was famously had its title changed after Beethoven became disillusioned with Napoleon, is, of course, like the earlier concerto, an epic work. Ludwig didn’t do small symphonies. There were moments when the brass took center stage and you could feel, beneath an otherwise very positive score, a certain simmering resentment. Maybe it’s just, but it felt like those small moments were the expressions of his disappointment and anger with Napoleon’s perceived betrayal of revolutionary sentiments.
At the end, Ax came out and played a solo piano piece – I’m not sure what it was; possibly Chopin, but it sounded a little more recent than that.