Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider


New App by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for iOS and Android!

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 


 
REVIEW



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Prťalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallť
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 

alternatively
CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline


Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major, Op. 81a, ďDas LebewohlĒ (1810) [15:32]
Piano Sonata No. 27 in E minor, Op. 90 (1814) [12:16]
Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106, ďHammerklavierĒ (1818) [40:30]
Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)
rec. ÷sterŚker Church, Sweden, August 2007
BIS SACD 1612 [69:17]

 

Experience Classicsonline




This is Volume 7 of Ronald Brautigamís complete Beethoven sonata cycle played on the fortepiano. I had read reviews of earlier volumes, but this is the first I have heard. It is beautifully recorded in an only slightly reverberant church acoustic. The booklet features an excellent note by Roeland Hazendonk. Iíve now added the six previous volumes to my list in the post to Father Christmas.

Itís clear that those who log on to MusicWeb International are an erudite bunch, but it might just be that one or two readers have never heard the sound of a fortepiano. The booklet notes tell us that in 1825 Beethoven received a fortepiano made by Conrad Graf. The list of musicians who held Grafís instruments in high esteem includes Chopin, Robert and Clara Schumann, Liszt, Mendelssohn and Brahms. If one was looking for sponsors one could scarcely do better. The instrument played on this recording is a modern one, built in 2007 by Paul McNulty and based on a Graf instrument dating from around 1819. To ears accustomed only to the modern concert grand, the sound of the fortepiano takes a little getting used to. The tone is less rich, less round than a modern instrument, and with a certain brittle quality. The sustaining power is reduced, and this is particularly noticeable in the higher reaches of the instrument. It is in the treble register, too, that one detects a trace, just a trace, of the sound of the piano that used to stand in grandmaís front room, or in the village hall. Period instrument enthusiasts will cite the remarkable clarity of texture which is possible on the fortepiano, and on the evidence of this recording the claim is justified. I wonder, though, how much of it is really thanks to the piano rather than to the pianistís astonishingly acute ear and nimble fingers. And I can well imagine such claims provoking snorts of derision from those pianists who would never dream of touching a fortepiano, yet who pass their working lives seeking out textural clarity in Beethoven and other composers.

For a long time I held the view that the period instrument movement was an interesting historical project, but that modern instruments were essential for real musical enjoyment. That was partly the result of some thoroughly unpleasant noises that emanated from period instruments in the early years. I was quite convinced, for example, that Bach would have been thrilled to hear his music played on modern trumpets, for the simple reason that they sounded so much better. But as period trumpet playing has progressed in spectacular fashion in recent years, Iím now not so sure. As to Beethoven on the fortepiano, letís say that once the present disc was underway I rarely thought about it. Let us also say that Brautigam is a totally convincing advocate for the instrument.

No praise is too high for these performances. In Les Adieux Brautigam captures perfectly the contrasting moods of the three movements, and his remarkable virtuosity is put to purely musical use in the finale. That finale represents the composerís pleasure at the return of his friend the Archduke Rudolph, but still evokes in my mind nothing so much as the ecstatic joy of some slightly undisciplined dog Ė of which Iíve had a few Ė when his master or mistress arrives home. Brautigam tends to keep the music moving in these works, particularly noticeable Ė and effective Ė in the short Op. 90 sonata, where he finds just the right tempo for the Schubertian second movement. There were one or two moments in the first movement of Les Adieux where busy textures in the left hand rather overpowered what was happening in the right, but such is the pianistís authority I feel sure that this was what he intended. One also notes a certain hardness of tone at the top of the instrument when played forte or above; this must surely, I think, be seen as one of the limitations imposed by the instrument.

Brautigam provides a towering performance of the Hammerklavier. Beethoven inserted some fairly hair-raising metronome marks, and Brautigam comes pretty close to them. There is both power and energy in the playing, and although the work pushes the instrument to its absolute limits, there is no feeling of frustration, during the performance, of wanting something different or something more. The second subject group of the slow movement is given with exquisite poise, and there can be no denying the advantage of the period instrument in the passages for crossed hands. Then the finale brings me back to the question of clarity. I donít think Iíve ever heard the contrapuntal writing more clearly defined than here. The pianist might claim that the instrument helps him out, and it may be so, but it is his dexterity which is truly at the basis of this extraordinary achievement. As for the work itself, and this finale in particular, is there not a case for its inclusion amongst the very greatest products of the human mind? In the cultural realm, what would be, so to speak, the competition? St. Paulís Cathedral? King Lear? Holbeinís Ambassadors? Beethovenís astonishing contrapuntal and dramatic feat lays claim to the most prestigious title.

William Hedley

 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools






Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.