What does original mean here?
Beethoven has arranged some of his own works. Fortunately, Olli Mustonen thinks.
Beethoven was not a fan of arrangements, especially not when others took offence at his works. In a letter, he once railed against «the unnatural fury that people have of wanting to transplant even piano works onto violin instruments, instruments that are so opposed to each other in everything [...]». Only a Mozart could do that, he continued, or a Haydn. And yes, «without wishing to associate myself with either of these great men», he himself, of course, too.
In fact, Beethoven «transplanted» some of his own works into other instrumentations: The Piano Sonata op. 14/1 also exists as a string quartet, he transformed the Septet op. 20 into a trio – and the Finnish pianist Olli Mustonen would have one favourite work less in his repertoire without the transposition of the Violin Concerto for the piano. «For those who know the violin version, it may be like seeing a mountain from a different side,» he comments. «The view and the light are different, but it is the same mountain, the same breathtakingly original, hypnotic masterpiece.»
«Feeling of fatigue»
An almost alpine sweeping view was once also the reason for this arrangement. The London composer and editor Muzio Clementi had suggested it – although the Violin Concerto had initially been received quite critically. Beethoven had delivered the score so late that the Vienna premiere in 1806 had to take place without rehearsals. The audience reacted kindly, but the review in the «Wiener Theater-Zeitung» was scathing, the critic criticising «a lot of incoherent and heaped ideas»; one was «pressed to the ground by the continual tumult of some instruments [...]» and left the concerto «with an unpleasant feeling of weariness».
Clementi disagreed, and Beethoven accepted his suggestion, wrote a piano version of the Violin Concerto and took the opportunity to write a new cadenza in which, for the first time in music history, the timpani is used in addition to the solo instrument. The result received much positive feedback – even to the point of stating that only this version brought out the character of a work that had initially been a concerto «against the violin». Nevertheless, it has never quite established itself in concert life; Olli Mustonen is one of the few pianists who regularly put it on the programme: not only as an original masterpiece, but also in its own way.
Translated with DeepL.