Ronald Brautigam

Beethoven: The Rage Over a Lost Penny; Rondos & Klavierstücke

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This is the 13th in Dutch fortepianist Ronald Brautigam's series of recordings of Beethoven's complete piano music, and one might say the series is getting down to oddities and ephemera. That is, except for the fact that two works here, the Rondo a Capriccio in G major, Op. 129 (known as "Rage over a Lost Penny," but not so titled by Beethoven), and the small piano piece called Für Elise, in a version compiled by Barry Cooper from several small revisions made toward the end of his life, are the two Beethoven works known even to the most amateur of pianist. Actually Brautigam made the decision to take all the works with a certain seriousness, and this is one of the strong points of his series. Another is his selection of pianos that seem ideally suited to the works played; here he uses two fortepianos by American-Czech builder Paul McNulty, copying instruments from 1805 and 1819. The later piano is used to wonderful effect in the quasi-improvisatory Fantasia for piano in G minor, Op. 77, a work unique in Beethoven's published oeuvre. Other highlights include two early rondos (tracks 1 and 2), composed in 1783 when Beethoven was 12. They show the restless, fearless, and abrupt quality of his early music very clearly. In fact, the contrast with the Rondo in B flat major (track 3), which is probably not by Beethoven, is especially apparent. The final Andante maestoso in C major, published as Beethoven's "last musical thought," is also not a genuine Beethoven work but was compiled by the publisher Diabelli from some sketches made during the composer's last days. It is not entirely disparate from the world of the late quartets, however, and the album as a whole is a pleasurable tour through some of the back hallways of Beethoven's music.

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