Ronald Brautigam performs Beethoven solo piano works

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COMPOSERS: Ludwig van Beethoven
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Solo piano works, Vol. 14: Variations on God Save the King, Rule Britannia, The Ruins of Athens, An Original Theme in F, An Original Theme in C minor, etc
PERFORMER: Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: BIS BIS-1942

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The tireless Ronald Brautigam is intent on recording every note Beethoven ever wrote for piano, and his latest instalment contains some real rarities. Most substantial are the Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 34, which find Beethoven experimenting with a radically new approach to the form: each variation is in a different key, tempo and metre, so that the result is almost like a series of character-pieces, rather than variations. Scarcely more conventional is the Rule Britannia set – a miniature comic masterpiece in which Beethoven amuses himself by allowing the tune to disappear from sight as early as the very first variation. It’s a much more compelling piece than the God Save the King variations, or even the better-known 32 Variations in C minor, both of which are also included here. Among the shorter items Brautigam plays is a pair of preludes modulating through the entire spectrum of the major keys, and an early Allemande which Beethoven quoted more than three decades later in his String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132.

Brautigam’s performances throughout are faultless. Besides the sheer brilliance of his playing, he manages to make a case even for such minor chippings from the workshop as a pair of occasional waltzes which were among Beethoven’s very last piano pieces. Firmly recommended.

Misha Donat

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