Full Disclosure: This particular rodent considers Beethoven’s fifth (and final) piano concerto to be nothing less than the absolute pinnacle of Western music. Seriously. Doesn’t matter if it’s your first or 500th listen. Doesn’t matter if you’re 9 or 99. Doesn’t matter if you own an AR-15 in Hillsboro or practice gluten-free yoga in southeast Portland. There’s just no getting around it: This is brilliant music. Over the span of three glorious acts, the concerto follows the beautifully evolving relationship between piano and orchestra – two equals who find themselves duking it out in the boxing ring as the curtain rises, then embracing one another in bed throughout the slow movement, and finally, busting out complicated twist lifts, throw jumps, and death spirals on the ice rink for the most ultimate of finales. [Wowee!] By some ineffable miracle, the 30-something Ludwig managed to create a composition that both acknowledges Palestrina and anticipates Katy Perry – an unbroken string of transcendent musical moments still quite capable of triggering smiles and transmitting shocks two centuries after its premiere. Witnessing pianist André Watts perform this winner on Monday night with the Oregon Symphony was (needless to say) a thrill-and-a-half. The crowd that appeared dazzled and a bit confused by the Hindemith earlier in the night, now found itself completely under the spell of this concerto. Golden silence permeated the Schnitz as the musicians on stage conjured up the composer’s magic, and all of us reveled in the time-stopping, mind-blowing, heart-breaking wonder that is Beethoven. Oh, what a night!
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