Beethoven: Complete Works for Solo Piano, Vol 03 - Brautigam
Classical - Instrumental
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas 4 - 7
Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)
Review by John Broggio - December 22, 2006
This compelling series goes from strength to strength. There are no complete cycles of Beethoven's works on the fortepiano currently available (Paul Badura-Skoda completed one and Melvyn Tan made an extensive but incomplete survey) and this has reawakened my ears in respect of this marvellous music.
Like the comparable symphony cycle on BIS, this cycle of "Complete works for solo piano" (one sincerely hopes for the major variation sets, bagatelles etc.) does not present the works in chronological order: in Beethoven: Complete Works for Solo Piano, Vol 01 - Brautigam, we are treated to the "Pathétique" and the following three sonatas; in Beethoven: Complete Works for Solo Piano, Vol 02 - Brautigam we go "backwards" to the Op.2 sonatas and the (late-in-being-published) Op.49 to make an exceptionally generously filled disc. In this volume, we are given the sonatas that fill the gap in between the first and second volumes (numbers 4 Op.7 & 5-7 Op.10) and will be familiar to many people from their own studies.
Ronald Brautigam is a very fine player, both technically and musically. These works are not the greatest that Beethoven wrote but are very interesting signposts to the development of the "middle period" works that are justifiably famous and popular. Even so, this is very involving music and Brautigam makes the most of each piece. From the relative frivolities of the 6th sonata to the more Sturm und Drang moments of the 5th sonata. Throughout the subtleties are well bought out by Brautigam, who also manages to construct a convincing landscape - as with past masters like Gilels or Schnabel one feels the inevitability of Beethoven's logic whilst allowing the "surprises" to poke through.
Many listeners might feel allergic to the fortepiano as opposed to the pianoforte but I would encourage them to sample either this or Volume 1 because the smaller tone (but in no way anaemic) clarifies textures that modern grand pianos find difficult which is especially effective when added to the shorter half-life of sound from the sostenuto pedal which makes sense of Beethoven's original markings (no need to choose between fancy half-pedalling or clashing sonorities here). The modern (2001) fortepiano is in no way short of "fire power" and has a pleasingly wide dynamic range which is revealed to us by both Brautigam and the superb BIS recording which surely has to be a model of its kind.
Highly recommended as a comparable revelatory series to that of recent Del Mar edition symphony cycles.
Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and HRAudio.net