Piano Concerto in E-flat major, WoO 4

(Solo part only with indications of orchestration)

Occasionally referred to as Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 0

The music for this piece survives in the form of a hand-written (though unsigned) 32pp manuscript, with corrections by the author. The solo piano part is totally complete and also includes a piano transcription of the orchestral parts. The orchestral score itself, for flutes, horns and strings, is lost. This was a time before Beethoven had heard the likes of Mozart or Haydn, but instead had been exposed to J S Bach, the Mannheim school and no doubt the many local 'masters' residing around Bonn at this time. The music was found in 1890 in the archives of the Artaria Fund and was from there taken to the Berlin State library. It was published in the same year by Breitkopf und Hartel. Later, the famous Beethoven scholar Willy Hess took to the task of restoring the orchestral parts based on the piano score material. The result is an intelligent and disciplined assessment that manages to sound sufficiently 'Beethovenish' as a whole to be taken seriously. This version was first performed (last movement only) in 1934 in Oslo. The first performance of the complete concerto was in 1968 at the London Queen Elizabeth Hall. There are numerous recordings of the piece to be found on CD today.


1. Allegro moderato
2. Larghetto
3. Rondo: Allegretto

Eva Ander (фортепиано), Kammerorchester Berlin, дир. Peter Gülke


Despite its early origins the music bristles with originality and contains many touching moments. The first movement is a substantial Allegro Moderato, and opens with a march like theme on the flutes and horns that is then taken up by the remainder of the orchestra. The piano then takes up the theme, which is then followed by a varied selection of more melodic material. Beethoven's capacity for grand and serious is evident in the development. The piano part itself is of considerable virtuosity and the original cadenza survives. Then follows a Larghetto of considerable beauty that contains some haunting passages. The central episode where the first theme is taken to dark and unforeseen vistas. The movement is quite unlike the slow movements of the 1st and 2nd Piano Concertos, indeed in many respects one could say the present movement is more original than those of these more mature works. The final Rondo is light hearted and entertaining but which also contains a contrasting intermezzo in the minor key 'all ungherese'.


Ludwig van Beethoven's "lost" E flat major Piano concerto (WoO 4) was written when the composer was a mere fourteen years of age. To enhance his son's reputation as a prodigy, Beethoven's father had claimed then that the work was written when the boy was 12; Beethoven was not aware of this false claim until he was 40 years old, by which time he had long since disowned the piece. The original orchestral parts were lost over time, and by the time the work was rediscovered around 1890 only the solo piano part had survived.

The reconstruction of the concerto came at the hand of the diligent musicologist Willy Hess, who drew on cues in the extant piano part to fashion the orchestration. The Rondo finale, an attractive if naive piece, was completed first by him, in 1934. Over the next nine years, the first two movements were restored, and the work was published in 1943. It is impossible to know how closely this E flat major Concerto compares with the original, but one can only surmise that while this version offers a charming youthful concerto of limited merit, it probably cannot rightly presume to replicate the 1784 score, which itself, if we can accept the composer's judgment, was not among his better early works. Hess admittedly used orchestral scoring that Beethoven surely would not have had the proficiency to create at that tender age. It must be remembered that while Beethoven showed great talent in his teens, he was not the prodigy Mozart was, and did not produce a true masterpiece until his adult years.

The first movement of this concerto was premiered in 1934 by pianist Walter Frey. Few pianists have shown interest in this work. While It is difficult to regard the E flat concerto in its standard arrangement as an authentic piano concerto by Beethoven, the parentage of the solo piano manuscript is undisputed.

(All Music Guide)