Ronald Brautigam at Wigmore Hall – Mozart, Beethoven & Haydn

Piano Sonata in G, K283
Piano Sonata No.8 in C minor, Op.13 (Pathétique)
Piano Sonata in E flat, Hob.XVI:52

Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 19 May, 2014
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Ronald Brautigam. Photograph: Marco BorggreveThis cleverly assembled BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall brought together three late-Classical Piano Sonatas, composed in the space of 23 years. Ronald Brautigam began with the earliest, the Mozart, part of a group of five published in 1775. There is a deceptive simplicity at work here, the child-like theme of the first movement soon compromised by uncertain syncopations. Brautigam’s rhythmic discipline was impressive, the scalic runs seamless and often thrilling, and through a liberal application of rubato the subtle dramatic turns were enhanced. The more peaceful Andante lost a little lyricism to the harsher timbre of the fortepiano, though was still affectionate, while the crisp finale had a punchy delivery.

Beethoven’s ‘Pathétique’ Sonata took on rather bare timbres here. Brautigam’s unadorned octaves at the start were a statement of intent, the subsequent Allegro flying out of the blocks with edge-of-the-seat bravado. On occasion the phrasing was compromised, but the feeling of standing on the threshold of something new and exciting was palpable. The Adagio, however, was fresh and thoughtfully phrased, a relatively measured approach paying dividends.

Haydn’s biggest (and best known) Sonata completed the trio. Again Brautigam was at pains to stress innovations, in particular daring shifts of key to E major and minor, and the mysterious displacements in the first movement took on a very uncertain profile, especially when given considerable rhythmic freedom. This feeling of unease carried into the Adagio, where anticipations of Beethoven could be felt. The finale restored parity, with the ticking, repeated notes of its theme dominating until a rush to the finish, occasionally a little scrambled but never less than exhilarating. A nicely chosen encore, Haydn’s Adagio in F (H.XVII.9) completed a richly rewarding and stimulating concert.

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