If there is one thing I’ve learned from attending Symphony concerts, is that it’s always a good idea to listen to the piece prior to attending the performance. Back in May, the pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii performed Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat Major, Op.73 by Ludwig van Beethoven with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. It was a magnificent portrayal of the magnitude of art, yet I cannot say I enjoyed it to the fullest. There was a lot of hype surrounding the 2nd movement, but the music didn’t touch me as deeply as I thought it would.
After that night, I went on Youtube and searched up the 2nd movement myself. And I don’t know if it was during the first listen or the fourth, but suddenly the piece spoke to me. It spoke with eloquence and modesty, profoundness and delicacy.
The 2nd movement begins with a sweet serenade by the strings, and as it swells, the winds and brass join in to create a wondrous canvas for the piano to lay its foundation. The piano’s entrance is serene and extremely free, its notes gliding through the phrases with an unsung coherence. As the movement continues, it is obvious that piano and orchestra are leading a harmonious conversation between themselves, but the latter does not steal any light away from the virtuous solo passages. The introductory theme returns with its little swells, and the piano takes over with an overwhelmingly fulfilling reply that leads to another thoughtful exchange between piano and orchestra. As the movement comes to a close, the orchestra ends quietly on an unresolved chord, and the piano blesses us with one last breath of candid, ethereal music.
To me, this piece evokes a simplicity in beauty that did not seem achievable. There is no sense of elaboration in this piece. Every note belongs, and every note is created with a remarkable sensibility that helps sustain the relationship between neighbouring notes. The phrases float with unconditional freedom, but remain grounded and attentive at its core. This music reminds us that ultimate beauty transcends physical barriers.