18th century engraving of Bonn (unknown artist)
Romance cantabile in E minor WoO 207 (1786-7, Beethoven aged 16)
Dedication not known
Background and Critical Reception
We step back briefly for an encounter with a fragment dating from slightly earlier in the teenage Beethoven’s Bonn years. The Romance cantabile seems to have been written as the slow movement to a concerto – or more likely a Sinfonia concertante for several instruments and orchestra. Its relatively unusual instrumentation suggests it could have been with the Westerholt-Gysenberg family of Bonn in mind, as Beethoven wrote his substantial Trio for Flute, Bassoon and Piano around that time.
After the main theme there is a second section, but it is incomplete and peters out after a short while.
The Romance cantabile is a rather charming piece, though it is laced with melancholy. The elegiac tones of the orchestral introduction are soon given a brighter edge from the piano soloist, who enjoys a little more amiable dialogue with the flute before the serious theme returns.
Beethoven would revisit the key of E minor for a concerto slow movement much later in his career, for the Piano Concerto no.4 .
Patrick Gallois (flute), Pascal Gallois (bassoon), Philharmonia Orchestra / Myung-Whun Chung (piano) (DG)
Johanna Haniková (piano), Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, Pardubice / Marek Štilec (Naxos)
The Philharmonia strings give a luxurious cushion to the version on DG, which is a relatively glossy account from Patrick and Pascal Gallois, conducted by Myung-Whun Chung, who is also the piano soloist. The Naxos recording is smaller scale and a little more intimate as a result.
Patrick Gallois, Pascal Gallois, Philharmonia Orchestra / Myung-Whun Chung
Johanna Haniková, Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, Pardubice / Marek Štilec
You can chart the Arcana Beethoven playlist as it grows, with one recommended version of each piece we listen to. Catch up here!
Also written in 1787 Haydn 6 String Quartets Op.50 (‘Prussian’)
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