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Beethoven composed his Piano Concerto No. 3 in 1800, and it was first performed three years later, on 5 April 1803.
The most soulful of all Beethoven’s music is arguably found in his piano concertos. If you need any proof, listen to the middle movement of either his Piano Concerto No.1 or of this, his Piano Concerto No. 3. There’s a beauty and elegance here that truly confirms Beethoven’s status as the one composer who quickened the pace of change in classical music by welcoming in the Romantic era that was to follow.
It’s all too easy to attempt to create rather tenuous links between composers when no such links truly exist – but in the case of this piece, Beethoven owes an undoubted debt to Mozart. The great Austrian composer’s Piano Concerto No. 24 directly inspired Beethoven here, from its key signature of C minor through to intricate details of phrasing and orchestral colour within each movement.
As was the custom with most of Beethoven’s works for piano, the composer himself performed as soloist on the night of the premiere. His Piano Concerto No. 3 was premiered alongside the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives and the Symphony No. 2 and, never one known for his organisational skills, Beethoven performed most of the concerto from memory – not through choice, but because he’d run out of time to transcribe the piano part!