MCO’s Beethoven Piano Concerto No 4 can be heard via live stream on Thursday 30 July at Melbourne Digital Concert Hall.
In April this year, Melbourne Chamber Orchestra was planning one of our biggest undertakings to date – a concert in celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday featuring Schubert’s iconic Unfinished Symphony and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3 in C minor. For the occasion, we were going to perform with an orchestra of thirty players.
Unfortunately, that concert was not able to go ahead but we are so thrilled to be paying homage to Beethoven on a slightly smaller scale in our next concert through Melbourne Digital Concert Hall this Thursday night. For this occasion, we will be joined by the brilliant Stefan Cassomenos for a chamber arrangement of Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto (my personal favourite!) for piano and six string players. The striking thing about this arrangement is that the balance of the ensemble is somehow not compromised, even though the forces are significantly diminished. Each player is able to approach their part a little differently to how they would in the orchestra – at times as an ensemble player but, in other moments, playing in a more soloistic manner. The more intimate setting allows for more flexibility and interplay between the soloist and the ensemble, which is a lot of fun, especially when you are working with a soloist who performs with so much character and energy!
Playing chamber music in the time of Covid-19 presents a unique set of challenges. Stefan commented in our first rehearsal, “I didn’t realise how much I listened with my mouth!”. Playing while wearing masks certainly takes a little bit of getting used to – as does having to sit significantly further apart than is ideal for chamber music making. But the challenges are surpassed by the joy of making music and celebrating a composer whose music has made a lasting impression on us all. Beethoven was a great innovator in his lifetime and was always pushing the boundaries of convention, whether it be in the structure of the symphony, or the development of the piano. In many ways, marking the milestone of his 250th birthday in this new digital concert space MDCH has created, seems really apt!