Beethoven composed his 3rd and 4th Piano Concertos between 1800 and 1806 – a period of rapid change for the instrument. Extra notes were added to its upper and lower registers and new, iron-framed versions allowed performers to produce a more powerful and sustained sound. Beethoven exploited the instrument’s new capabilities to the full in these two works.

The composer began Piano Concerto No 3 at a difficult time in his life, in poor health and with increasing awareness of his failing hearing. Piano Concerto No 4 was the last in which Beethoven was able to take up the solo role in concert. Within a few years of the concerto’s first outing in 1807, advancing deafness forced the composer to give up public performance.

Emmanuel Ax performs both works with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under the direction of chief conductor, David Robertson. The concert is streamed live at 10:20 GMT on 18 June 2014 (20:20 in Sydney, 11:20 in London, 06:20 in New York). You can watch a recording from this page at any time once it has finished.

On 21 June, the SSO and Emmanuel Ax will present Beethoven’s majestic Piano Concerto No 5, ‘The Emperor’. This concert will be available to watch live and on demand on BBC Culture.

Ax and the SSO are performing all of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos at the Sydney Opera House this June. Their performance of Piano Concertos 1 and 2 is also available to watch here.

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