After recording the complete solo fortepiano works of Haydn, it was inevitable that Ronald Brautigam would record the complete fortepiano concertos of Haydn. Of course, it helps that while Haydn's complete solo fortepiano works take up 11 discs, his complete fortepiano concertos take up only a single disc, so Brautigam could record it before moving on to record the inevitable complete fortepiano music of Beethoven. On its own, Brautigam's recording of Haydn's concertos is wonderful: light, bright, ebullient, full of humanity, and suffused with poetry. Brautigam's tone is clear but ringing, his touch is graceful but powerful, his interpretations characterful but self-effacing.
The sixth disc in this highly acclaimed series combine two works in which Mozart's powers as an orchestrator come to the fore. Concerto No. 18 in B flat major, K 456, is sometimes referred to as one of the composers military concertos on the basis of the march-like main theme of the first movement. But more striking is the variety of ways that Mozart employs the various groups of instruments: strings, wind instruments and, of course, the piano. This aspect certainly didn't pass unnoticed by a listener as initiated as Mozart's father Leopold: in a letter to his daughter Nannerl he described how his enjoyment of the orchestral interplay had brought tears to his eyes.
On the evidence of this sensational disc, it seems clear that Sharon Bezaly is a flutist virtually without peer in the world today. The only serious competition for top position comes from Emmanuel Pahud, also a superb artist but one whose discography, fine enough in and of itself, fails to rise to Bezaly's level either in terms of imaginative programming or in its commitment to commissioning and recording worthy new works for the instrument./quote]
The pairing of Francis Poulenc and Reynaldo Hahn on this album may seem contrived merely because of biographical parallels between the two men, for their musical approaches and styles are quite different, if not at odds. Poulenc's neo-Classical, self-conscious parodies in the Sinfonietta and the dry, sarcastic wit of the Aubade are a world away from Hahn's pretty, even precious, Romanticism, which is unabashedly on display in La bal de Béatrice d'Este. However, the discerning listener may find in Poulenc streaks of Hahn's pensiveness and languor, which his comic antics never completely conceal; there is in Hahn a buoyant, diatonic tunefulness that is readily found in Poulenc. (Interestingly, some of Poulenc's adaptations of Renaissance music bear a remarkable similarity to Hahn's antique pastiches in this ballet.) Furthermore, their fondness for unusual chamber combinations is striking, and the transition from the Aubade to La bal de Béatrice d'Este is not at all jarring because they both share the charm and ambience of the salon orchestra.
Composed in 1786, the Piano Concertos Nos 24 in C minor and 25 in C major are regarded as two of Mozart's finest achievements in the genre. Both are large-scale works, with durations of more than 25 minutes each – the C major concerto is in fact one of the most expansive of all classical piano concertos, rivalling Beethoven’s fifth concerto. Their grandeur immediately made them popular fare in the concert hall – Mendelssohn, for instance, had No.24 in his repertoire through the 1820s and 1830s – and new recordings appear regularly. It is nevertheless relatively rare to hear them performed on original instruments and with orchestral forces corresponding to what Mozart himself would have been familiar with.
The 32 Piano Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven are often referred to as the ‘New Testament’ of the keyboard literature, following on the ‘Old Testament’ of J.S. Bach's 48 preludes and fugues in the Well-Tempered Clavier. Composed over a period of almost three decades, from 1795 to 1822, the sonatas constitute a fascinating panorama of an artistic career which underwent numerous changes – not to say upheavals – but nevertheless remained remarkably consistent.