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  BIS -
  Beethoven: Complete Piano Works Vol. 2 - Brautigam
  Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Op. 2 Nos. 1-3, Op. 49 Nos. 1-2

Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)
Track listing:
  Classical - Instrumental
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 15 show all

Reviews: 2

Review by seth August 25, 2005 (6 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
As my review of last year's release of Volume I indicates, Brautigam has clearly made the case for playing the Beethoven Piano Sonatas on the fortepiano (well, at least the early ones). While that SACD was anchored by one of Beethoven's best and most popular, the "Pathetique," this disc features Beethoven's early, lesser played sonatas. BIS, though, has generously crammed 81 minutes of music into this release. As the excellently written liner notes indicate, in these first sonatas, Beethoven was still developing his own style. Specifically, unlike the sonatas of Haydn and Mozart, these were intended for public performance and to dazzle listeners. The Mozart sonatas are really intended to be heard by the person playing them, or by a few people sitting around a piano in someone's drawing room. A really beautiful moment in Godard's "Weekend" is exactly this (except that the people are outside a farm with the pianist ranting about popular culture while playing the final Mozart piano sonata). Beethoven sought to change the nature of the piano sonata. To do that, these sonatas are quite flashy, displaying the range of the fortepiano as well as showing off the pianist's technical abilities. And this is how Brautigam plays the sonatas on this SACD.

While all the sonatas are superbly executed, I didn't take away anything new from them. My only complaint about the playing is that Brautigam goes a little too far in displaying how well he can pound away at the instrument, which its limited dynamics lets him do without worry about producing an earth shattering noise. I've heard Malcolm Bilson play some of these early sonatas on the fp and found his playing to be more agreeably sensitive. But this isn't really Brautigam's fault; Beethoven doesn't give him a lot to work with. It wasn't until the "Pathetique" that Beethoven really began to transform the genre. Slow movements are the best done. The fp's smaller sound makes it a much more intimate listening experience.

In my review of the first Volume I complained about the recording sounding too much like it had been made in a church, which it was. I again had the same problem, only this time I felt it was worse. For me, it's incredibly awkward hearing a Beethoven piano sonata played in this environment. Listening to music is partially visual. Putting aside acoustics, if you played the same piece of music in different locations, such as a concert hall, school gym, and outdoors in the woods, the music would sound different. When I listen to recorded music, I like to close my eyes so I do not see the fact that I'm listening in my home, and sometimes visualize that I'm seeing the recording being performed in a concert hall. So what I'm getting at, is that the church acoustics contextualize the location of the performance. This is not a religious thing; it's just that for me, it would be highly unusual to go to a church and hear Beethoven. Part of this has to do with my listening room, which is acoustically excellent; I've taken everything out of it that could negatively absorb sound. When I played the disc on a neighbor's system, which is located in a room with lots of furnature and a rug, the extra reverberation from the church was not nearly as audible. So besides these 'personal' issues I have with the sound, sonics are excellent, extremely vivid.

My review probably gives you the impression that if you're not a diehard Beethoven, fortepiano and/or Brautigam fan, you should pass on this disc and wait for later volumes that contain the great sonatas. I'd say this is true. But I think anyone who does buy the SACD will find it extremely entertaining. The fp adds a fun and legitimate sense of rediscovery (see my thoughts on the fp vs modern piano in my review of vol I).

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Review by Beagle October 5, 2005 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is not a full review, but an acoustics footnote to Seth's very thorough and able review.

I had read Seth's comment about churchy sound before ordering these discs -- but forgotten it. Thanks to that lapse of memory, I've been listening to it with unreserved delight ever since it arrived. Seth is correct, it is a church, or corner thereof. But in my blissful forgetfulness, it seemed as if I not Brautigam were seated over the ivories (I used to play). The immediacy of the sound lends itself to that illusion. So don't let ecclesiastical ambience keep you away from these discs. It's eckt-Beethoven on a Beethoven piano, right there in your bed-sittingroom, cathedral, or what-have-ye.

To deSelby: Real Good, Real Good, Real Good.

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Works: 5  

Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 2 No. 1
Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 19 in G minor, Op. 49 No. 1
Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 2 No. 2
Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 20 in G major, Op. 49 No. 2
Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 3 in C major, Op. 2 No. 3