Ronald Brautigam

Mozart: Piano Concertos No. 20 in D minor & No. 27 in B flat major

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The cycle of Mozart's concertos by fortepianist Ronald Brautigam and German period-instrument group Die Kölner Akademie has been a controversial one, with several highly unorthodox aspects to the approach. The brisk tempos in the slow movements here will give an idea. Brautigam and conductor Michael Alexander Willens strive for a spontaneous-seeming phrasing and dialogue between soloist and orchestra, emphasizing chunks phrase structure rather than the usual Mozartian melodic quality. If you don't like the style, you'll find the playing unmusical. This said, if you're interested in checking out the series, this release is a good place to start. There are several reasons for this. First, Brautigam and Willens get away from the melancholy, autumnal tone that is so often retrospectively applied to the Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major, K. 595. The concerto was composed in January 1791 at the latest, and perhaps several years earlier than that; in either case Mozart had no intention whatsoever of dying, and the sunny approach here results in a fresh appreciation of the music's construction. Second, the odd balances in some of the other recordings, seemingly minimizing the piano's role, have been smoothed out a bit. Finally, the conception of the Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, is genuinely original. In Willens' hands, the work is not proto-Beethoven but purely classical, with the syncopated material at the beginning distinguished sharply from the D minor theme in the upper strings. Again there's an element of stripping away the way the Romantics heard the work. It's still likely that you'll come down firmly in one camp or the other after hearing this, but there are signs that a more nuanced appreciation is becoming possible.

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