Beethoven: 5 Piano Concertos - Brautigam, Willens

Beethoven: 5 Piano Concertos - Brautigam, Willens

BIS  BIS-2274 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Beethoven: 5 Piano Concertos

Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)
Die Kölner Akademie
Michael Alexander Willens (conductor)

As one of the finest pianists of his era and an improviser of genius, Ludwig van Beethoven’s preferred vehicle for musical exploration was the piano. His earliest composition, from 1782, was a set of piano variations and he continued to compose for solo piano until the last years of his life. His interest in the concerto form diminished as his deafness forced him to retire from performing. Nonetheless, with his five piano concertos composed between 1788 and 1809, Beethoven not only achieved a brilliant conclusion to the Classical piano concerto, but also established a new model for the Romantic era: a sort of symphony with obbligato piano which remained a reference point well into the beginning of the twentieth.

Ronald Brautigam has already recorded these seminal works with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, in acclaimed performances released between 2008 and 2010. Since then he has also released all of Beethoven’s solo piano music on the fortepiano to universal praise. When Brautigam now returns to the concertos, it is in the company of conductor Michael Alexander Willens and Die Kölner Akademie playing on period instruments. The same team has previously partnered him in an 11-disc survey of Mozart’s piano concertos and it is plain to hear that all involved clearly relish the opportunity to congratulate Beethoven on the eve of his 250th anniversary.


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Comments (1)

Comment by Dissonance - November 5, 2019 (1 of 1)

An interesting release by BIS just in time to anticipate the 250th Anniversary Year of Ludwig van Beethoven. The first disc consist of Piano Concertos Nos. 1, 2 & 4 and takes the generous playing time of 87 minutes and 56 seconds! The second disc consist of the remainder and lasts 69 minutes and 17 seconds. In the consumer point of view it would have bring more considerable value to the album if the ’Choral Fantasia’ (Op. 80) would have been added to the set as a bonus. In its total time of ca. 18 minutes both the discs would have had the same total time (69’17 + ca. 17’30 = 86’47).
Recording sessions took place in July 2017 (Nos. 1 & 3) and in July 2018 (Nos. 2, 4 & 5) at the Deutschlandfunk Chamber Music Hall, Cologne, Germany. Producer: Ingo Petry (Take5 Music Production), sound engineer: Christian Starke. Original format: 24-bit / 96 kHz high-resolution PCM.

In some way I do understand BIS’s recording policy; this release is its first album of the works recorded with fortepiano instead of a modern-day piano. But why to record something that already is on the market, even more than once?! BIS has already released two sets of Beethoven’s Piano Concerti; one was made with Yevgeny Sudbin featuring Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä (in the last album the orchestra was Tapiola Sinfonietta), another was recorded with (again) Ronald Brautigam featuring Norrköping Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Parrott. Come on, why not to record such a works like ’the Creatures of Prometheus - Complete Ballet’, ’Complete Incidental Music to Goethe’s Egmont’ or ’Christ on the Mount of Olives’? All of these features truly memorable music and deserves to be recorded more often, especially in high-resolution audio and Surround Sound.

But who knows what BIS has on the pipeline for the next year, maybe we will receive some of the works listed above...