Piano Concerto No. 1 (2) in C Op. 15 (arranged for piano and string orchestra by Vinzenz Lachner /first print)
Beethoven, Ludwig van / arr. Lachner, Vinzenz
Ludwig van Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 1 (2) in C major, op. 15 (1795-1801)
(baptized Bonn, 17 December 1770 – d. Vienna, 26 March 1827)
Arranged for piano and string orchestra (1881) by Vinzenz Lachner (first print)
(b. Rain am Lech, 19 July 1811 – d. Karlsruhe, 22 January 1893)
I Allegro con brio – (p. 1)
II Largo (p. 41)
III Rondo. Allegro (p. 55)
Ludwig van Beethoven’s famous Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major (op. 15), composed in Vienna between 1795 and 1801, was the first of his concertos to appear in print. By rights, however, it should be called his Second Piano Concerto, for the one known today by that title (op. 19 in B-flat major) originated earlier, assuming its final form between 1788 and 1801. Moreover, Beethoven had already written two piano concertos during his youth in Bonn, one in E-flat major and another in D major, though he soon rejected them as fully-fledged works. The C-major Piano Concerto received what is now known as its première on 2 April 1801, when the composer played it in Vienna’s Burgtheater. According to a longstanding anecdote, Beethoven, noticing shortly before the performance that the instrument was tuned a semitone too low, spontaneously played his part in C-sharp major. Perhaps both the op. 15 and the op. 19 concertos were performed in Prague as early as 1798, though documentary proof is lacking. Whatever the case, Beethoven played the solo part from memory, perhaps partly improvising it as well. It was only in 1801 that he definitively wrote it down for publication. He dedicated the piece to his pupil Anna Luise Barbara, Princess Odescalchi, née Countess Keglevich von Buzin, also known by her nickname Babette (1778-1813).
Vinzenz Lachner’s arrangement for piano and string quartet plus double bass (or string orchestra) was published by J. G. Cotta of Stuttgart in 1881 in a two-piano edition by Sigmund Lebert (1821-1884) and a set of string parts. A copy of the complete set of parts is located in the archive of the Beethoven House in Bonn. Lachner’s string version of op. 15 was never published in full score. In the meantime his version has been performed with ever-increasing frequency, allowing a great Beethoven concerto to be heard solely with string accompaniment, and the absence of an edition in full score has proved to be a major shortcoming. Until now conductors have had to avail themselves of Beethoven’s original version with winds – a makeshift that we hereby remedy with the premier publication of the full score, prepared by Lucian Beschiu.
The four Lachner brothers were sons of the watchmaker and organist Anton Lachner from the Bavarian town of Rain am Lech. All of them became composers. The most famous was Franz Lachner (1803-1890), whose output covered all genres and includes eight symphonies, eight orchestral suites (some of them once very popular), and a large body of chamber and piano music. Ignaz Lachner (1807-1895) is far less well-known, though some of his string quartets are occasionally heard today, and the older half-brother Theodor Lachner (1795-1877) is completely forgotten. Not so Vinzenz Lachner, who, though overshadowed by his great brother Franz, produced music that was duly recognized and enjoyed the amiable appreciation of Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann. In 1822 he enrolled at the Augsburg Latin School, where for reasons unknown he failed to take a diploma. In 1830, through the agency of his brother Franz, he became a music teacher to Count Mycielski zu Cosvitz in Posen (now Poznań, Poland). Four years later he succeeded his brother Ignaz as organist at the Calvinist Church and vocal coach at the Kärntnertor Theater in Vienna. When Franz Lachner resigned as conductor at the Mannheim National Theater in 1836, Vinzenz took his place and held the position, with a few interruptions, until his early retirement in 1873. In between he was a conductor of the German Opera Company in London (1842) and music director in Frankfurt am Main (1848). In 1873 he moved to Karlsruhe, where he worked first as a private teacher and later at the Grand Ducal Conservatory. Among his pupils were the famous Wagner conductor Hermann Levi (1839-1900) in Mannheim and the piano virtuoso Max von Pauer (1866-1945) in Karlsruhe. Like his brother Franz, he was a staunchly conservative composer who opposed the innovations of the New German School under Liszt. He composed mainly vocal works, including many lieder, and had a sterling reputation as a conductor. Among his instrumental works are two symphonies, several overtures, incidental music to Schiller’s Turandot, piano pieces, and chamber music in a wide range of formats, including a once popular G-minor Piano Quartet (op. 10).
Vinzenz Lachner’s string version of Beethoven’s C-major Piano Concerto is a solid, impeccably crafted arrangement that manages to weave the original wind parts elegantly into the string texture. Conductors and chamber musicians are urgently advised to study Beethoven’s original thoroughly beforehand in order to gain an authentic view of the requisite dynamic contrasts and the timbres Beethoven originally intended. Vinzenz Lachner recommended that pianists play the solo cadenzas of Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870), a world-famous piano virtuoso in his day and a remarkable composer well-regarded by Mendelssohn. This recommendation is fully in tune with Lachner’s own stylistic stance as a composer and still represents an acceptable alternative today. However, we of course expressly recommend turning to one of Beethoven’s three original cadenzas for the first movement (especially the longest of them) or, given the necessary impulse, knowledge, and rare talent, improvising cadenzas of one’s own, as was common practice in Beethoven’s day. In the final analysis, the choice of Beethoven over Moscheles, or vice versa, simply depends on whether the player wishes to present the work flawlessly in Beethoven’s original style or to meet the more domesticated taste of the musty romantic era.
Translation: J. Bradford Robinson, 2013.