Cullan Bryant / Dmitry Rachmanov

Beethoven and His Teachers: Music for Piano, Four Hands

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This recording by Cullan Bryant and Dmitry Rachmanov gives fans of piano duet music the chance to hear a couple of rarities, plus Beethoven's duets on period instruments. Beethoven and His Teachers mixes the works of Beethoven with pieces by three men known to have taught the great master at some point. Christian Gottlob Neefe was an organist and opera conductor mostly known for being Beethoven's first significant composition teacher, but he also made piano arrangements of and prepared vocal-piano scores for Mozart's opera music. His Six Easy Pieces from Die Zauberflöte are quite charming and capture several of the most famous melodies. Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, a friend of the Haydns, taught Beethoven harmony and counterpoint. Albrechtsberger's Prelude and Fugue is a Classical-era take on the Baroque form, but it still uses a few of the ornamental and fantasia traits of the earlier period. Haydn's Il Maestro e lo Scolare, well-known to duet students, but rarely recorded, is performed by Bryant and Rachmanov quite winningly, both acting as equal partners in agreeable imitation throughout the variations. Among the highlights of Beethoven's duets are the duo's reading of the Waldstein Variations, WoO 67, and the Variations on Ich denke dein, WoO 74, for which they are joined by Maria Ferrante, who sings the theme of the work. The inclusion of Beethoven's own transcription of the Grosse Fuge is of interest because of the use of the historical instrument, but, even as well as Bryant and Rachmanov play it, it doesn't quite live up to the effectiveness of the string quartet version. Overall, however, this recording is a great choice for those looking for original instrument performances of this repertoire.

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