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Beethoven: Complete Works for Solo Piano, Vol 15 - Brautigam

Beethoven: Complete Works for Solo Piano, Vol 15 - Brautigam

BIS  BIS-2017

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


Beethoven: 33 Veränderungen über einen Walzer von Anton Diabelli (Diabelli Variations), Op. 120, 6 National Airs with Variations, Op. 105

Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)


Ronald Brautigam completes his acclaimed series with Beethoven’s last great work for solo piano.

In 1819 the Viennese music publisher and composer Anton Diabelli sent a short waltz to a long list of composers. These included Schubert, Hummel, a very young Franz Liszt and, as the most prominent composer of the time, naturally Beethoven. Diabelli was proposing to compile an anthology of variations on his own waltz, one from each composer. Beethoven responded in a characteristic manner: first there was nothing, and then there was nothing … and then, in 1823, there was an entire, and monumental, set of no less than thirty-three variations.

As the last large-scale piano work by Beethoven, the Diabelli Variations form a fitting close to Ronald Brautigam’s traversal of the complete solo piano music. Described in International Record Review as ‘a Beethoven player whose musical discernment is a constant source of wonderment’, Brautigam has through the course of this series performed works composed between 1783 and 1825, using four different fortepianos. On the present disc we hear a copy of a 4-stringed fortepiano by Conrad Graf from 1822 – similar to Beethoven’s own last instrument, which Graf supplied him with in 1826, a year before the composer’s death.

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PCM recording

Recorded in August 2015 at Österåker Church, Sweden, 24/96

Producer and sound engineer: Ingo Petry (Take5 Music Production)

Equipment: BIS’s recording teams use microphones from Neumann and Schoeps, audio electronics from RME, Lake People and DirectOut, MADI optical cabling technology, monitoring equipment from B&W, STAX and Sennheiser, and Sequoia and Pyramix digital audio workstations.

Post-production: Editing and mixing: Ingo Petry

Executive producer: Robert Suff
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Comment by William Hecht - December 18, 2016 (1 of 2)

Just knowing this is coming is a fine Christmas present, it seems like we've been waiting forever.

Comment by William Hecht - March 25, 2017 (2 of 2)

Anyone needing to be convinced of Beethoven's genius, though presumably there are not many of us here, need only listen to what he does with Anton Diabelli's ridiculous little tune in the course of thirty three variations lasting about three quarters of an hour. Many composers have successfully addressed themselves to the variation form, including a sizable number using Paganini's 24th caprice as a theme, and many more responded to Diabelli's request to compose a single variation upon his theme, but no one else has ever written something of this magnificence based on such an utterly banal theme. There is quite a bit of legend surrounding the piece, much of it spurious, but in the end we are gifted with a composition fully worthy to stand beside Bach's Goldbergs at the pinnacle of the form.

So, we are being treated to a performance of a great piece of music by a pianist whose previous performances of the complete sonatas and other of Beethoven's piano music have been greeted rapturously in the music press and by regular listeners like myself. Was it worth the wait? In my view resoundingly so. Mr. Brautigam has pushed back the limits of what may be achieved playing Beethoven on a forte piano until the instrument ceases to be any kind of bar to his ability to convey anything he wants about this music he clearly loves. On this disc we get incredible music fabulously performed and very well recorded. I've collected hundreds of Beethoven recordings going back to Schnabel's and forward through Angela Hewitt's ongoing cycle and find myself consistently more challenged and stimulated by Mr. Brautigam's set than any other. This recording of the Diabellis has to be considered the summit of this set, though if John Miller's review of volume 13 is correct there are still two further volumes to come.