Listeners seeking a single box of all Haydn's solo keyboard music performed on a fortepiano and recorded in digital sound need look no further. Pianist Ronald Brautigam's 15-disc set for BIS contains everything the great Austrian classical composer wrote for the instrument: the 63 piano sonatas and the 25 miscellaneous works, plus The Seven Last Words of our Savior on the Cross in a keyboard arrangement authorized by the composer.
"…In short, this CD is a delight from begin to end. It will make you want to see and hear the two pieces performed live because only then can one fully enjoy the virtuosic playfulness and beauty of the musical interchange between the two pianos in the Concerto in E flat major; not to mention the pure divertimento of the Concerto in F major, which is a recreational, uplifting and entertaining." ~musicweb-international
"…In the hands of Willems and Brautigam, this masterpiece is given a first class performance, particularly in its buoyant Finale, a sonata-rondo in which the piano and orchestra really are cavorting joyfully together. The two concertos on this disc's menu may well offer the best performances of the series so far, yielding first class solo and orchestral playing as well as the best recording of any period Mozart concerto series at this time." ~sa-cd.net
Joseph Martin Kraus, the German-born Swedish composer who was an almost exact contemporary of Mozart, is primarily known as a late classical symphonist of extraordinary importance, and heretofore this is where recording of his output has been concentrated. On Bis' Joseph Martin Kraus: The Complete Piano Music, pianist Ronald Brautigam comes to terms with the slim amount of keyboard music that belongs to Kraus, a cycle previously addressed on Naxos by pianist Jacques Després on a modern instrument. On the Bis, Brautigam uses a reproduced Walther & Sohn fortepiano built by Paul McNulty, an 1802 instrument that has a sound almost indistinguishable from that of a modern piano, except for its more limited range and shorter decay time. This seems to suit Kraus' keyboard music, which is rich in ideas but spindly in texture, a bit better than a modern instrument. Likewise, Després interpretations of Kraus' music sound read through at times and betray a sense of less than complete familiarity. This is not a challenge for Brautigam, who clearly knows, and loves, these willful and eccentric pieces of Kraus.
This 37-disc box set is the only brand new and fully digital recording of the complete symphonies of Haydn. Performed by the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester (Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra) and conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, the recordings were done live in connection with concerts of the whole cycle. The series received fantastic reviews by the press, and The Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra was awarded the European Chamber Music Prize in 2008. Available at a fantastic price, the set is released to tie in with the 200th anniversary of the composer’s death in 2009.
Co-chief conductors Riccardo Minasi and Maxim Emelyanychev take turns on the podium leading this period-instrument band in a rousing collection of concertos by Haydn. Il Pomo d'Oro has been hailed "a wonderful ensemble, and Minasi an outstanding musician" capable of "bringing the house down with his virtuosity" (The Guardian). Emelyaychev's award-winning harpsichord joins Minasi's violin in the soloists' spotlight, along with the distinguished natural horn of Johannes Hinterholzer. The concertos are complemented by Haydn's Symphony No 83 (known as The Hen, because of the ‘clucking’ figures on the strings in its second movement) and his Keyboard Fantasia Hob.XVII:4.
What a versatile artist Steven Isserlis is. Having made his name as a sympathetic interpreter of a wide variety of romantic and modern music, here he shows he can be just as persuasive in eighteenth-century repertoire. His stylistic awareness is evident in beautiful, elegant phrasing, selective use of vibrato and varied articulation, giving an expressive range that never conflicts with the music’s natural language. In the cello concertos he is helped by an extremely sensitive accompaniment, stressing the chamber musical aspects of Haydn’s pre-London orchestral writing. The soft, intimate sonority at 3'06'' in the first movement of the D major is a typical example. The Adagios are taken at a flowing speed, but Isserlis’s relaxed approach means they never sound hurried. The Allegro molto finale of the C major Concerto, on the other hand, sounds poised rather than the helter-skelter we often hear. In his understanding of the music, Isserlis is a long way ahead of Han-na Chang, whose version places the emphasis on fine, traditional-style cello playing. Mork’s vivacious, imaginative performances characterize the music very strongly, but my preference would be for Isserlis’s and Norrington’s lighter touch and greater refinement.
This was to be the end of the line for Italian word-setting by Viennese composers: once the confident sentiments that belonged to the poet Metastasio's opera seria felt the chill and threatening wind of Enlightenment and Revolution, their time was up. Even we, for the most part, prefer to remember the German-speaking Beethoven, Schubert and Haydn. So it is good to be reminded of their responses to the Italian muse (usually as part of their craft-learning student work) in this particularly well-cast recital. Central Europe, in the person of Andras Schiff meets Italy, in Cecilia Bartoli, to delightful, often revelatory effect.