Piano Concertos, Vol. 1: Opp. 3, 12 & 26
Ronald Brautigam (piano); Kölner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens
BIS BIS-2504 (CD/SACD) 82:28 mins
Johann Wilhelm Wilms (1772-1847) was German by birth, but lived in Amsterdam for most of his life, where he composed the National Anthem which served the Netherlands from 1815 to 1932. He gave the Dutch premieres of Mozart and Beethoven concertos, whose influence is plain to hear, Mozart especially in the E major, with its opening Mannheim rocket and clear-cut orchestration. Ronald Brautigam’s instrument – a modern copy, not identified in the notes – has a more rounded tone than many fortepianos, and suits the music well.
Is it interesting enough to be revived? A qualified yes: it’s never less than expertly written for the soloist and orchestra, but the reliance on sequence sometimes feels like going through the motions. In the later concertos there are more harmonic twists, and the melodic lines and instrumental textures – particularly in the wind – have greater individuality. You can hear Wilms’s debt to Beethoven more clearly here, particularly in the slow movements, where there’s poise and elegance in the C major, and in the buoyant Rondo alla Polacca of the D major. Brautigam and Willens plainly believe in this music: they collaborated on the editions used, and create performances of lightness and transparency, matched by the recording’s clarity.