Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat “Emperor”
In May of 1809, Napoleon’s army began to besiege Vienna. Despite this, a 39-year old Beethoven refused to leave the city, instead seeking shelter underground. Once the bombardment had ended, Beethoven was able to leave the city – and more importantly, his creative powers had not been diminished by the experience. When he was able to resume his compositional activities, the composer produced back-to-back masterpieces in the key of E-flat: one was a “Harp” quartet, the other, his fifth and final Piano Concerto, with the subtitle “emperor”.
The subtitle was not given by Beethoven, and in all likelihood he probably wasn’t a fan of it. This was the same composer who removed the dedicated to Napoleon from his Eroica Symphony after Napoleon made himself emperor. Nevertheless, the concerto does have an imperial sense and scope to it.