International Record Review: outstanding.
The 32 piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven have been called ‘the New Testament of piano music', and belong to the most recorded repertoire of any instrument. With this disc, volume eight in his traversal of Beethoven's music for solo piano, Ronald Brautigam has reached the last of the 32, completing a sonata cycle which has made a great impression on all who have been following it. As one reviewer, in Süddeutsche Zeitung, described his reaction, ‘one almost feels like a contemporary of Beethoven's, one of the first to hear this music – immensely astonished, not to say agitated.' His colleague in The Times (UK) agreed, claiming that ‘Beethoven the revolutionary comes closer than ever in Brautigam's fiery interpretations.' Brautigam has chosen to record these seminal works on fortepiano, and throughout the series uses two different instruments mirroring the rapid development of the piano during the three decades that saw the birth of these sonatas. This has certainly added to the interest in the series, and caused the critic in Fanfare magazine to imagine ‘a stylistic paradigm shift – a Beethoven piano-sonata cycle that challenges the very notion of playing this music on modern instruments'. But first and foremost it is the purely musical qualities of Ronald Brautigam's cycle that have impressed listeners, as witness the following quote from a review in Gramophone: ‘Stunning performances that are technically breathtaking, stylistically astute, emotionally intense and musically alive in every moment.' The final chapters in Beethoven's pianistic testament are no less thrilling than those that have preceded them, and Brautigam's readings of them make for a grand finale of the sonata cycle. As an appendix to this recording, the early, unnumbered Bonn sonatas will appear on disc in the autumn of 2010, to be followed by a further eight discs of Variations, Bagatelles and other pieces for solo piano.