I’ve played all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos in concert maybe three times before. A few years ago in Amsterdam with the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century and with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra two years ago when we recorded the cycle.

Kristian Bezuidenhout. Photo © Marco Borggreve

Playing these pieces in concert is like nothing else in the sense that Beethoven demands so much from the player – so much concentration and physical stamina. It requires the sort of playing where you’re at the edge of your capabilities. It’s not something you can do very often. It’s extreme, and volatile, and horrendously difficult. 

The concertos offer a glimpse into a period of time when the concerto’s role was changing dramatically and morphing into something very different. It’s just at this time, at the turn of the 19th century, where you see Beethoven grappling with the idea that he has to write a piano concerto in the style of Mozart. You see that in the B Flat Concerto No 2, which is officially No 1. All of a sudden you see with the C Major Concerto, Opus 15 that he’s trying to find his...