Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2 - Brautigam / Parrott
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 19
Piano Concerto in E flat major, WoO. 4 (reconfigurated by Brautigam)
Rondo in B flat major, WoO. 6
Ronald Brautigam (piano)
Norrkoping Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Parrott (conductor)
Released in 2008, Beethoven’s First and Third Piano Concertos as interpreted by Ronald Brautigam and the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra under Andrew Parrott (BIS-SACD-1692) have been making an impression on critics all over the world. The freshness of the performances have struck many, for instance the reviewer in the German magazine Fono Forum who wrote: ‘Here Mozartian grace and Haydnesque wit join hands – and both concertos gain from it, in the flowing, breathing pulse, in intimacy, in nobility and unassuming beauty … a great moment.’ His colleague in Fanfare (USA) was in complete agreement, writing that ‘the music is unshackled from the dark and heavy blanket that so many performances impose on the score ... a unique and, perhaps, revelatory take on the music.’
Teaming up again, the same performers now offer us the youthfully fresh Concerto No. 2 – which was actually conceived long before the First Piano Concerto – as well as two rarities.
The first of these is the Piano Concerto in E flat major, WoO4, sometimes referred to as Beethoven’s ‘Concerto No.0’. Composed in 1784, when Beethoven was only 13 years old, it is a fully developed three-movement work that displays much imagination, harmonic control and sense of form, as well as a striking level of virtuosity. The work has survived in a contemporary copy of the piano part, incorporating directions showing that the original orchestra consisted of two flutes, two horns, and strings.
For this recording Ronald Brautigam has made his own reconstruction of the orchestral score. The third work on the disc is also one without opus number, namely the Rondo in B flat major, WoO6, composed during the long gestation of Concerto No.2 and probably at one stage intended as the finale of this work.
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Recorded in October 2008 at the Louis de Geer Concert Hall, Norrköping, Sweden, 24/44.1
Recording producer: Ingo Petry (Take5 Music Production)
Sound engineer: Andreas Ruge
Equipment: Neumann microphones; RME Micstacy microphone preamplifier and high-resolution A/D converter; MADI optical cabling; Yamaha 02R96 digital mixer; Sequoia Workstation; Pyramix DSD Workstation; B&W Nautilus 802 loudspeakers; STAX headphones
Post-production: Digital editing: Bastian Schick, Elisabeth Kemper
Mix: Thore Brinkmann (Take5 Music Production), Ingo Petry
Executive producer: Robert Suff
Review by Mark Novak - May 8, 2009
An interesting release. The WoO4 E-flat piano concerto has been reconstructed by Ronlad Brautigam from the piano score. The orchestration implied by the existing score is for strings, two flutes and two horns - a rather sparse accompaniment if you ask me. The work itself is closer to Mozart than to the Beethoven we know from his more mature concerted works. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant, if not entirley memorable, listen. Brautigam plays with consumate mastery and the orchestra, led by Andrew Parrott, plays in an historically informed style (read: mostly vibrato-less strings) that suits the music. I realize that Brautigam was trying to conform to Beethoven's original conception for the work but it sure would have been nice to flesh out the orchestration with some other winds, brass and percussion.
The performance of the second concerto is very good. Tempos are generally faster than most you will hear but they don't seem rushed. The larger orchestration of this work makes its sonic impact more satisfying. As long as you are not allergic to period practice (I'm not though I prefer modern techniques) you will enjoy the perky ebulliance and joy evident throughout this performance. Also included is the rondo in B-flat for piano and orchestra which was originally intended as the finale for the 2nd concerto. This is similarly well played by all concerned though I certainly prefer the finale that LvB published.
Sonically, this is excellent. The piano was placed (lid off) amongst the orchestra and the resulting blend of sonorities is beautifully captured by BIS. Another wonderful BIS release. Next up for me is the concertos 1 and 3 release by these same forces. My expectations are high based on the results here. Highly recommended.
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