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Alongside a small list of compositions, the Fourth Concerto in G op. 58 occupies a privileged position in the statistics of Beethoven’s works that are most frequently performed, and most often recorded. Accordingly, it might seem paradoxical to include a version of it in a series dedicated to Beethoven rarities, unless we try to find the reason for this apparently singular choice by taking a look at a series of events linked to the genesis of this masterpiece. The events at the time remind us that the first performance of the Fourth – with Beethoven at the keyboard - took place in March 1807 at the palace of Prince Lobkowitz. However, this was an academy reserved for a select few subscribing members.
The Viennese public had to wait another 18 months to hear it, at the Theater An der Wien, with the composer again at the pianoforte, on the occasion of the historic (and interminable) concert of 22 December 1808, which also saw the first performance of the Fifth and the Pastoral Symphony, as well as the Choral Fantasia op. 80. Meanwhile, in August of that year, the Kunst und Industrie Komptor had already published op. 58 in the canonical version which we know today. However, in the following months pianofortes with an extended keyboard had begun to spread, and rapidly too. Beethoven was not indifferent to this new development.
Indeed, he had already conducted some experiments on the newly extended range, introduced in the Waldstein-Sonate op. 53. It is plausible that this may have been one of the reasons which led the composer to modify his op. 58, despite the fact that the sheet music had just been published. In any event, it is certain that, for the academy performance of 22 December he decided to rewrite fully 180 bars of the first and third movement. We have providential evidence of this new version thanks to a manuscript with his own hand-written corrections, at the Musikfreunde Gesellschaft in Vienna.
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