It’s not your usual Beethoven concerto, but then the Northwest Sinfonietta prides itself on doing new twists on standards. This weekend the Tacoma-based chamber orchestra gives the U.S. premiere of a strings-only version of the composer’s fourth piano concerto with German soloist Andreas Klein.
Found recently in Bonn, Germany and passed onto Klein, the reduced orchestral accompaniment by Beethoven editor Hans-Werner Küthen might be new to U.S. audiences but would have been second nature for 19th-century music lovers. In the era before music recordings, orchestras in every town and oodles of conservatory-trained musicians, if you wanted to hear a classic you sometimes had to play it yourself with whatever instruments were to hand. Piano reductions of Mozart operas, trio versions of symphonies – this was common stuff.
Arranging for different instruments also solves a very contemporary problem – money. For the Sinfonietta and everyone else, it’s much cheaper to play a Beethoven concert with around 20 string players than it is to pay seven extra woodwinds, four brass players and a timpanist as well.
Most of the rest of the program is likewise rearranged: Bizet’s orchestral “Carmen” suite is reduced for strings by Clark McAlister, and a Debussy Andantino is expanded from string quartet version. Sibelius’ “Romance” was originally a string ensemble piece, but has elsewhere been arranged for piano solo.
Will you miss anything in this new Beethoven version? Probably not. The orchestral part does have some colorful wind solos, but like any classical concerto it’s primarily a back-up for the piano part, in this case played by the internationally renowned Klein, described by The New York Times as “a pianist who makes silences sound like music.”
7:30 p.m. Feb. 15 at Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Rialto Theater, 310 S. 9th St., Tacoma; 2 p.m. at Pioneer Park Pavilion, 330 Meridian Ave. S., Puyallup. $19-$49. 800-291-7593, nwsinfonietta.org