Beethoven: Piano Concertos No. 3 & No. 5; Norman Krieger, JoAnn Falletta & the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (Decca)
"We had this beautiful German Shepherd in our house, and it was very interesting because every time I'd open the case he would hide under the kitchen table and start howling even before I would start practicing."
And that's when Norman Krieger decided to switch from the violin to the piano.
Today he serves as a piano professor at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He also collaborates with some of his favorite musicians, including the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor JoAnn Falletta. Together, they recently released a new recording featuring Beethoven's Piano Concertos No. 3 and No. 5, known as the Emperor Concerto.
Let's talk about this recording, because it's interesting. Two Beethoven concertos but recorded more than a decade apart. Tell me about that and why now was the right time for these to be released.
"We actually didn't record the third concerto with the intention of actually putting it out on CD, but I think it's one of my better performances. It's an honest recording, meaning it's not edited. So what you hear is what the audience heard in the audio in the concerts."
When you say this performance of the Concerto No. 3 is one of your best, what makes you say that? What is it that strikes you about this performance as being really spot on?
"I guess for me the secrets are in the silences. You know, there are a few moments in the slow movement where Beethoven writes a fermata and then he writes a rest after the fermata, which offers you to really listen to the entire space that you're in and breathe. And so we did that in that performance. In the slow movement, there's what I call the climax of that concerto, where he has a mini cadenza toward the end of the slow movement and then the fermata and then the rest, and that rest to me is the climax of the concerto."
The last movement, that rondo, though, is so infectious. It could really become an earworm, don't you think?
"Yeah. I think you're right. What I love about it, is Beethoven is exploiting the entire range of whatever keyboard he had at that time when he composed it. You know he basically goes as high as you can go in the treble and as far down as you can go in the bass. You know he's a revolutionary in that respect. He was always pushing piano builders to make better instruments, making bigger instruments, louder instruments. And that's obviously the case with the Emperor Concerto. I mean, he just exploits the entire range of the keyboard. So it's thanks to Beethoven that the piano has progressed over the last, you know, 200-some years."
Now, JoAnn Falletta noted that you have a way of bringing out the Viennese element in the concerto and you bring it out in them - the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. How do you do that?
"Well, I assume she's speaking about the last movement of the Emperor. You know that famous opening I mean, if you look at the music and you sing it. Claudio Arrau told a conductor that I worked with that Beethoven's intention was not to play it [he sings], but [sings rhythm], and that's sort of a little lilt. It gives it that rhythm, where you're almost able to dance it, you know, and it has a little bit of a beer hall feel.
"But you know when you think of the mode of transportation in Beethoven's day, it was not cars or trains. It was horses. And so there is almost a feeling at times of galloping, of the perpetual motion of that kind of rhythm that is so joyous."
To hear more about this new Beethoven recording, and how a trip to the Hollywood Bowl to hear Jascha Heifetz changed Norman Kreiger's life, listen to the extended podcast above or download it wherever you get your podcasts.
ResourcesNorman Krieger (official site)
Buffalo Philharmonic (official site)