Beethoven: Piano Concertos 1 & 3 - Brautigam, Parrott
Classical - Orchestral
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major Op. 15
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor Op. 37
Ronald Brautigam (piano)
Norrköping Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Parrott (conductor)
If they have not already heard the recordings themselves, everyone with an interest in Beethoven will at least have heard reports of Ronald Brautigam’s ongoing cycle of the complete music for solo piano. Performed on the fortepiano, this project has been greeted with enormous interest by the reviewers. One contributing factor has been the choice of instrument, which has brought new perspectives to the music, causing one reviewer to expect a cycle ‘that challenges the very notion of playing this music on modern instruments, a stylistic paradigm shift’ (Fanfare). But more important for the critical success have been the direct and immediately engaging interpretations. ‘One has almost the feeling of being Beethoven’s contemporary, one of the first, infinitely surprised – not to say shocked – listeners to this music’ as the reviewer in Süddeutsche Zeitung phrased it, backed up by his colleague in International Record Review, writing about the Moonlight Sonata: 'a Presto agitato from hell; such controlled fury and unrelenting intensity, yet musical to the core, and never banged out. It took sometime before I was able to unpin myself to the wall...’
With five discs released so far in the cycle, Brautigam now takes on Beethoven’s complete works for piano and orchestra, choosing to do so on a modern piano and with a modern instrument orchestra: the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, internationally acclaimed for its many fine recordings on BIS. Conducting the series is Andrew Parrott, and together with the soloist, he brings all his expertise in period performance practice to bear in interpretations that in many ways are as fresh and revolutionary as those of the sonata cycle. The present disc, with Concertos No.1 and No.3, is the first of a cycle of four, and was recorded with the piano, without a lid, placed in the middle of the orchestra. As Ronald Brautigam explains in the liner notes: ‘I truly believe that what Beethoven wanted was chamber music rather than a battle between orchestra and soloist, and this makes for a wonderfully interactive set-up, where individual players have far more contact with the pianist than in a regular concert set-up’. This aspect is further underlined by the fine recording, in both SACD (Surround and Stereo) and conventional CD format, on this hybrid disc.
Recorded in May 2007 at the Louis de Geer Concert Hall, Norrköping, Sweden, 24/44.1
Recording producer: Ingo Petry (Take5 Music Production)
Sound engineer: Marion Schwebel (Take5 Music Production)
Equipment: Neumann microphones; RME Octamic D microphone preamplifier and high-resolution A/D converter; MADI optical cabling; Yamaha DM1000 digital mixer; Sequoia Workstation; Pyramix DSD Workstation; B&W Nautilus 802 loudspeakers; STAX headphones
Digital editing: Elisabeth Kemper
Mix: Marion Schwebel, Ingo Petry
SACD authoring: Bastiaan Kuijt
Executive producer: Robert Suff
Review by Mark Novak - May 10, 2009
This is splendid. If you are looking for performances played on a modern Steinway with a smaller orchestra employing period execution these releases on BIS are excellent. I'm one who prefers not to hear these works on a fortepiano so Brautigam's choice of a Steinway is greatly appreciated. I previously reviewed the SACD with the concerto No.2 coupled with the early WoO.4 concerto (reconstructed by Brautigam) and this (earlier) release of concertos 1 & 3 employs the same forces to similar excellent effect. Tempos are generally fast (especially the allegro movements) but Parrott has the Norkopping players in perfect sync with Ronald Brautigam whose piano playing is sublime.
A comparison to the Mustonen/Ondine concerto 1 is illuminating. Mustonen begins the finale of No.1 in a halting, eccentric manner. Brautigam, on the other hand, makes the notes leap off the page and Parrott's accompaniment is vital and engaging. Both recordings were made with the piano immersed amid the orchestra (lid off) but its the BIS that is more immediate sounding. Ondine's sound is more distant and less engaging. After purchaing the first installment of the Mustonen cycle, I chose not to buy the subsequent release (with concero 3 and the piano version of the violin concerto). With this Brautigam cycle in progress, there's no point in wasting money on the eccentric, less-well-recorded Mustonen. I hope the remaining concertos will be coming soon on BIS! Highly recommended.
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