ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven for Solo Piano
WORKS: Piano Sonatas Op. 2/1, 2, 3; Piano Sonatas, Op. 49/1 & 2
PERFORMER: Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: SACD-1363
This second volume of Ronald Brautigam’s Beethoven cycle concentrates on music composed in the mid-1790s. If the two little sonatas Op. 49 (the late numbering results from the delay in their publication) were composed with an eye towards the amateur market, the same certainly can’t be said of the Op. 2 set. The last two works of the triptych, in particular, are virtuoso pieces par excellence, and the opening Allegro of No. 3 is actually more akin to a concerto movement. Brautigam plays it in appropriately orchestral style, giving full weight to its full-blooded textures and capturing all the music’s energy and excitement. His account of the work’s slow movement – the expressive high-point of the set as a whole – is deeply felt, using the full range of colours available on the copy of the early 19th-century piano by Anton Walter.
Brautigam is impressive in the A major middle work of the series, too, though this time it’s possible to find his tempo for the Largo appassionato second movement a shade too flowing to convey the music’s full intensity. Among pianists who take a more expansive view is Louis Lortie, and his recording of these three early sonatas is one that still gives a great deal of pleasure. But Brautigam can confidently be recommended, and his is already shaping up to be the finest period-instrument Beethoven cycle. Misha Donat