Friday, April 12, 2013

Brahms : Piano Concerto No 1 on an 1847 Streicher piano

Ronald Brautigam has made a formidable reputation for himself as a specialist in early pianos. He has already traversed the Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart piano sonatas for BIS, and his only lapse to date seems to have been his Beethoven concertos, marred by the utterly insipid conducting of a dull Englishman.

Here he is on a Streicher piano of 1847 playing Brahms' first concerto. The piano is to my ear informed by the Erard and Playels of the day. Certainly, it has the muscle to handle the orchestral balance, and the more singing bass register and faster decay mean that the piano writing comes across as more lucid, less congested. I have always felt that Brahms has an undeserved reputation for thick piano writing, based on the grumbly noises that emerge from a modern Steinway. Just remember that not even Steinway pianos sounded like that when Brahms was alive. Indeed, even the sound of Rachmaninoff's own Steinway reveals a leaner, more precise sound than you hear from modern examples. Leaving you with a feeling that we listen to classical piano music on a piano that essentially post-dates more or less the entire repertoire!

Anyway, here it is. I'm curious to hear what listeners make of it.

Brahms : Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor Op. 15
Ronald Brautigam, [Piano J.B. Streicher, Vienna 1847],
Nederlands Symfonie Orkest, Jan Willem de Vriend

Recorded 5-April-2013, Muziekcentrum Enschede

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Willem van Otterloo : Symphony No 2 (Premiere)

van Otterloo
Jan Willem van Otterloo (27 December 1907 – 27 July 1978) is remembered as a conductor, and especially as a champion of new music, but he was also a composer. His second symphony, which remained incomplete, was completed by his son-in-law, the composer Otto Ketting (and I regret that the link is to the Dutch Wikipedia – nothing in the English one!). Ketting, in fact, worked on his father-in-law's symphony in the period before his own death in 2012.

So the work is in some sense a valediction from both of these two well-loved figures in Dutch musical life. 

The work received its first performance at Vredenburg Leidsche Rijn, on the 6th April 2013, and was broadcast live. 

It's a gritty work, hard-driven outer movements and a sombre slow movement at its centre. While it does manage to find a major chord in its final bars, there is a sense more of defiance than triumph. I have found myself listening to it with a sense that this is more than conductor's music. There is a complex personality underlying the music that makes me curious to know more of his work. 

Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, James Gaffigan

192kbs mp3, tracked and tagged
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