Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 - Brautigam / Parrott
Classical - Orchestral
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
Piano Concerto in D major, Op. 61 (trans. from Violin Concerto)
Ronald Brautigam (piano)
Norrkoping Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Parrott (conductor)
In 1806, Beethoven composed two concertos - the Fourth Piano Concerto followed by the Violin Concerto Op. 61. In both cases the composer soon returned to the works to produce new versions, and it is these later versions that are presented here. At the public première of the Fourth Piano Concerto in 1808, Beethoven performed the piano part very 'capriciously' according to his pupil Carl Czerny, playing many more notes than are to be found in the printed edition.
A clear indication of what Beethoven played comes from his copyist's orchestral score, in which the outer movements contain annotations in the composer's hand. These have been transcribed by Beethoven scholar Barry Cooper who, in his insightful liner notes, describes this rarely recorded 1808 version as 'strikingly inventive' and 'more sparkling, virtuosic and sophisticated than the standard one'.
In the case of the Opus 61 concerto, Beethoven succeeded in writing what many consider to be the quintessential violin concerto. Less well-known is the fact that soon after the first performance, Beethoven produced an arrangement of the solo part for piano, modifying the violin part slightly in the process. When the work was first published, it was as a concerto for violin or piano. Worth noting is that although Beethoven did not compose any cadenzas for the violin, he did so for the piano version. The one for the first movement is especially striking, in that it includes a part for timpani, reminding us of the timpani solo that begins the entire work.
Ronald Brautigam and the Norrköping SO under Andrew Parrott have received acclaim for two previous discs of Beethoven's works for piano and orchestra: 'These well-known works emerge as if freshly minted' wrote International Record Review about Concertos Nos. 1 and 3, while the German magazine Piano News hailed the release of No.2 and the youthful Concerto WoO4 as 'a magnificent recording in which Brautigam demonstrates his stylistic expertise, and which shows what a splendid pianist he is.'
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Recorded in November 2007 at the Louis de Geer Concert Hall, Norrköping, Sweden, 24/44.1
Producer: Ingo Petry (Take5 Music Production)
Sound engineer: Thore Brinkmann (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
Post-production: Editing: Bastian Schick
Mixing: Thore Brinkmann, Ingo Petry
Executive producer: Robert Suff
Review by Mark Novak - March 13, 2010
Extraordinary music making here. If you've been following this series, the present installment is up to the same high standards of the others. As in those SACD's, Brautigam plays a modern Steinway D piano which is placed amidst the orchestra (lid off). The orchestra itself is paired down somewhat and they play in a period style (i.e. vibrato is used more sparingly than usual) though they too play modern instruments. This makes for a wonderful blend of sounds and it is all captured superbly by Thore Brinkmann in the Louis de Geer Concert Hall in Norkoping, Sweden. The fact that Andrew Parrott is conducting (and not the solo pianist as is the case for some recent vintage LvB piano concerto cycles) makes for fluid and lucid textures and pinpoint precision in ensemble.
The fourth concerto is performed in Beethoven's revised version of 1808 which involved changes in the solo part in the outer movements. These revisions were first transcribed by Barry Cooper in 1994. The somewhat reduced forces of the orchestra means that the usual wash of string sound is not present here. Instead, one hears a clear balance between all the orchestra sections and the piano. Brautigam's playing is exquisite - I don't think you'll find a better fourth concerto anywhere. BRAVO!
This is my first exposure to the piano version of the violin concerto. Though the piece has been recorded with some frequency, I have chosen not to acquire it in the past simply because I love the original so much and did not want anything to taint that affection. The mitigating factor for this transcription is that it was done by the composer himself (unlike a recent Brahm's "3rd" piano concerto release). After hearing this as performed by these forces, I still much prefer the violin original but I must say I did enjoy hearing it in this guise. Again, the performance is magnificent.
The sound is just about perfect. Everything integrates so well. String sound is natural and vibrant without any "digititus". The piano sound is full but never overwhelms the orchestra. Brass and woodwinds are fine too. Could it be better? Perhaps a bit more extension on the low end to fill out the orchetral foundation would have made this excellent recording even better.
The 5th concerto remains to be released in this series. With what will it be coupled? I hope it ISN'T the Choral Fantasy. Can I put in a request for the Triple Concerto?
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