Beethoven: Solo Piano Works Vol. 9

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Solo Piano Works, Vol. 9; 3 Sonatas Wo0 47 (Kurfürsten); Zwei Sätze Einer Sonatine, Wo0 50; 2 Leichte Sonatinen, Kinsky-Halm Anh. 5; Zwei Stücke Für Klavier (Orphika)
PERFORMER: Ronald Brautigam (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-SACD-1672

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Having completed his cycle of the 32 sonatas, Ronald Brautigam is now turning his attention to Beethoven’s remaining piano pieces – beginning, appropriately enough, with three miniature sonatas dedicated to the Elector of Cologne, Maximilian Friedrich.

Beethoven was 12 when he composed them, which is why they don’t form part of the accepted canon of sonatas, and it’s hard to detect a distinctive voice.

However, the F minor middle work of the triptych begins with a slow introduction that makes a return during the course of the following Allegro – an idea Beethoven later took up in his Pathétique Sonata among other works.

More elegant than any of these very early efforts, if more conventional, is a pair of ‘easy sonatinas’ in G major and F major. They’re familiar to beginners on the piano, though their attribution to Beethoven is based on the flimsiest of evidence.

Brautigam also throws in a tiny two-movement sonatina written for Beethoven’s doctor friend (and biographer) Franz Wegeler, and a pair of quite attractive pieces dedicated to Wegeler’s future wife, Eleanore von Breuning. But all the music here is small beer, and likely to be of interest only to Beethoven completists.

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Brautigam’s propensity for fast speeds occasionally robs the music of its naive charm, but at least he never fails to bring it to life. Misha Donat