BBC Music Magazine: outstanding; International Record Review: outstanding; Classics Today France: outstanding.
In the most central and often-recorded repertoire, it is far from easy for a musician to make reviewers sit up and notice what he or she is doing. But with his cycle of Beethoven’s works for solo piano, it is safe to say that Ronald Brautigam has amply succeeded. He has so far given us a ‘Pathétique’ that the website klassik.com found ‘almost impossible to describe in words’ and a ‘Mondschein’ that according to International Record Review ‘goes to the heart of what Beethoven was surely driving at’. As for the ‘Waldstein’, the reviewer in Classica-Répertoire ‘had never heard it ring out with more freshness, youthful spirit and conquering ardour’, while his Spanish colleague in Scherzo advised that listening to Brautigam’s ‘Appassionata’ would result in ‘a rarely experienced rush of adrenaline’. On a more general level, the cycle has – even before completion – been deemed to show the promise of becoming ‘a milestone in Beethoven interpretation’ (klassik.com), and ‘a Beethoven piano-sonata cycle that challenges the very notion of playing this music on modern instruments, a stylistic paradigm shift’ (Fanfare). The fact that Brautigam plays these works on the fortepiano has added to the interest, but the most common comparisons in reviews are to the legendary recordings of Schnabel, Brendel, Kovacevich or Arrau – in the words of the Fanfare reviewer ‘one hears playing on such an exalted artistic and technical level as to constitute a veritable lexicon of what may be achieved on a piano (of whatever vintage.) ... Brautigam's interpretations, exuding wisdom and joy, revere Beethoven without idolizing him.’ With Volume 7 of the cycle, Brautigam has arrived at one of the pinnacles of the piano repertoire, the monumental ‘Hammerklavier Sonata’. Once more he gives his listeners the opportunity to revisit a well-known work, and experience it in a fresh light, as a result of the clarity and distinctive timbre of Brautigam’s chosen instrument, and his superb, but never self-serving technical command of it. Included on the disc are also Sonata No.26 (‘Das Lebewohl’ or ‘Les Adieux’) and Sonata No.27 in E minor, Op.90.