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Rudolf Buchbinder Embraces Beethoven and the Art of Live Performances

Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder confirms the Vienna legacy through two powerful Beethoven releases dated year 2011, a DVD/Blu-ray of the Piano Concertos Nos. 1 – 5 with Wiener Philharmoniker and a CD box with the complete 32 Piano Sonatas, both recorded live, in Vienna and Dresden respectively. Often considered being the shining successor of the legendary Viennese-trojka (Gulda, Demus, Badura-Skoda), Buchbinder explains the different creative power of live performance:

“In my new complete recording of the Beethoven sonatas, the main issue for me was the musical breath. This only materialises on the concert stage, when the artist is making music live in front of his audience. Whoever works in the studio – as I did during my first recording of the 32 works – plays in a far more controlled manner than on stage, is not nervous and focuses on completely different issues than in the concert setting.”

Ludwig van Beethoven – Rudolf Buchbinder:

Piano Concertos Nos. 1 – 5, recorded live at the Goldener Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, 2011 (DVD/Blu-ray).

“The Sonata Legacy”, complete piano sonatas, live from Dresden in 2011 (9 CD:s)

Watch the Piano Concertos from Goldener Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, 2011 on YouTube:

Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 1 in C-major Op. 15
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 19
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 “Emperor”

Beethoven’s Piano Concertos, sheet music to view or download and print:

Buchbinder discusses urtexts, improvisation, practice and performs Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, the “Pathetétique,” and a transcription of Johann Strauss’s “Soiree de Vienne,” recorded in WGBH’s Fraser Performance Studio in November 2008:

Rudolf Buchbinder – Biography

Rudolf Buchbinder was admitted to the Vienna Musik Hochschule, at age five, and remains the youngest student to gain entrance in the school’s history. He is firmly established as one of the most important pianists on the international scene, he is a regular guest of such renowned orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, London Philharmonic, National Symphony, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He has collaborated with the world’s most distinguished conductors including Abbado, Dohnányi, Dudamel, Frühbeck de Burgos, Giulini, Harnoncourt, Maazel, Masur, Mehta, Saraste, Sawallisch and Thielemann and is a regular guest at the Salzburger Festspiele and other major festivals around the world.

Buchbinder has over 100 recordings to his credit, including the complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas, the complete Beethoven concertos, the complete Mozart piano concertos, all of Haydn’s works for piano, both Brahms concertos, and all of the rarely performed Diabelli Variations collection written by 50 Austrian composers. The 18-disc set of Haydn’s works earned him the Grand Prix du Disque.
His cycle of all of Mozart’s piano concertos with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, recorded live at the Vienna Konzerthaus, was chosen by Joachim Kaiser as CD of the Year.
Rudolf Buchbinder has also recorded live the Brahms piano concertos with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and all five Beethoven piano concertos with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra as soloist and conductor.
In 2006, in celebration of his 60th birthday, he performed twelve Mozart piano concertos with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Vienna Festwochen, the live DVD recording of which was released by EuroArts. In November 2010 a live recording of the Brahms piano concertos with the Israel Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta was released. His performances of the entire Beethoven Sonata Cycle on seven consecutive nights sold out at the Dresden Semperoper and the Mariinsky Hall in St. Petersburg earlier this year. The Dresden performances were recorded live and released worldwide by Sony.

Read more:
Rudolf Buchbinder – official website

Further listening:
Brahms’ Piano Concertos with Zubin Metha (2010)


Can You Do the Beethoven G Major Concerto Blind Test?

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58, was composed in 1805-1806, although no autograph copy survives.
The first movement opens with the solo piano, playing simple chords in the tonic key before coming to rest on a dominant chord. After a poetic pause of two and a half beats, the orchestra then enters in B major, the major mediant key, thus creating a tertiary chord change. This becomes a motif of the opening movement.

It was premiered in March 1807 at a private concert of the home of Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz. The Coriolan Overture and the Fourth Symphony were premiered in that same concert. However, the public premiere was not until 22 December 1808 in Vienna at the Theater an der Wien. Beethoven again took the stage as soloist. This was part of a marathon concert which saw Beethoven’s last appearance as a soloist with orchestra, as well as the premieres of the Choral Fantasy and the Fifth and Sixth symphonies. Beethoven dedicated the concerto to his friend, student, and patron, the Archduke Rudolph.

Click to print the test sheet!

Tip: Listen to the video without looking and see if you can recognize who is who of the pianists! In random order they are: Backhaus, Gould, Aimard, Gilels, Fleisher, Pletnev, Arrau, Haskil, Schnabel and Gieseking

A review in the May 1809 edition of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung states that “(the concerto) is the most admirable, singular, artistic and complex Beethoven concerto ever” (Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, May 1809). However, after its first performance, the piece was neglected until 1836, when it was revived by Felix Mendelssohn.

Today, the work is widely performed and recorded, and is considered to be one of the central works of the piano concerto literature.

Print the test sheet and listen to ten famous pianists playing the beginning:

Who do you prefer and why?
Could you spot anyone blindfolded and if so, how?


The Great Arthur Schnabel: Deciphering Beethoven – The Last Three Sonatas

A legend among pianists of the twentieth century, Artur Schnabel (April 17, 1882 – August 15, 1951) was an Austrian pianist, who also composed and taught. Schnabel was known for his intellectual seriousness as a musician, avoiding pure technical bravura. Among the 20th century’s most respected and most important pianists, he displayed a vitality, profundity and spirituality in works by Beethoven and Schubert above all. His performances of these compositions have often been hailed as models of interpretative penetration; and his best-known recordings are those of the Beethoven piano sonatas.

Schnabel did much to popularize Beethoven’s piano music, making the first complete recording of the sonatas, completing the set in 1935. This set of recordings has never been out of print, and is considered by many to be the touchstone of Beethoven sonata interpretations. His interpretations of the late, visionary sonatas of Beethoven were spiritual testaments.

Artur Schnabel’s editing of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas (1000+ pages total) stands as one of the most unlikely and yet colossal resources of pianistic wisdom generally and piano technique in particular ever compiled. The original edition of the 32 Sonatas edited by Schnabel was published in Milan, Italy by Edizioni Curci in three volumes. A re-engraved and corrected two-volume, five-language (English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish) American edition is available from Amazon.com

Hear Schnabel play the three last Sonatas of Beethoven:

Sonata Opus 109:

Continue: 2nd mvt | 3rd mvt | 3rd mvt (cont.)

Free piano sheet music:

Sonata Opus 110:

Continue: 2nd mvt | 3rd mvt | 4th mvt

Free piano sheet music:

Sonata Opus 111:

Continue: 2nd mvt | 2nd mvt (cont.)

Free piano sheet music:


Exciting Time Travels – Exclusive Interview with Ronald Brautigam

Ronald Brautigam talks to Piano Street’s Patrick Jovell about his love and interest in period instruments as well as the modern grand piano.

Patrick: We know you as one of the most important contemporary fortepiano exponents of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, which has resulted in your recording these composers’ complete sonatas on the BIS label. I have also experienced your outstanding chamber music collaborations, for example with violininst Isabelle van Keulen and your numerous prizewinning recordings of concerti on a modern grand piano. Your complete Beethoven piano concertos project has also achieved completion, and the recording of the E-flat major concerto no. 5 and Choral Fantasy has been available in record stores since July. One might say that you are a pianist with one foot in the past and one foot in the present. How did your love for and interest in period instruments emerge?

Ronald: The music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven has always held a special place in my repertoire, long before I became interested in the fortepiano. It was during the 1980s that playing Mozart’s piano sonatas became something of a problem: I had a clear idea of how the music should sound, but somehow the end result never matched my preconceived interpretation. The music sounded too big for what it was, and trying to make it lighter only resulted in the sort of polished and overly elegant Mozart I absolutely can’t stand. It was not until in 1987 that I came across fortepiano builder Paul McNulty (www.fortepiano.eu), who had his workshop in Amsterdam at the time. He invited me to come and have a look at his newly-finished 5-octave Walter copy. As soon as I started playing some Mozart, it all fell into place: the lightness I had been looking for was there, along with a sense of drama, of cheekiness and excitement I had never dreamed to find in these sonatas. All in all it only took me half an hour of playing to order an instrument from Paul; a decision that definitely changed my life. I had originally planned to keep my fortepiano at home, to use it as a reference when preparing a concert on modern piano. But in the end I found myself behind the fortepiano most of the time, and decided to start using it for concerts. The beginning of a long and happy relationship!

Patrick: All pianists, to different extents, have personal experience of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven sonatas throughout their lives, including discussions and reflections about how to read the score. As a top level pianist, you have played these sonatas since childhood. How do you approach the text when you prepare a work on the fortepiano as compared with how you prepared it previously? Are there basic rules or inevitable facts that have to be considered in a fortepiano situation?

Ronald: There is not really a lot of difference in my text approach on fortepiano or on modern piano. The text is the most important information the composer left us, and tells us everything we should do, whether on a Walter or a Steinway. Playing on a fortepiano, the instrument the composer had in mind, we can simply interpret the score as it is written. It is when playing a modern piano that we have to rethink some elements of the score, make a translation, as it were. Playing Beethoven on a fortepiano takes the instrument to its dynamic limits, which is not advisable to try on a Steinway!

Patrick: So how does the actual translation/transition work in practice?


Ronald: We have to convert the original dynamics into something that works equally well on a modern instrument, and the same goes for the accents, sforzati, etc. This practically means that you have to be more careful on a modern piano, without losing the excitement and dynamic drama of playing a period instrument. I tend to use far more leggiero and staccato playing on a modern piano, to suggest some of the crispness of a fortepiano, and I try to avoid the big, romantic sound as much as possible. But in the end the intrinsic qualities of whichever instrument you use should never be thrown overboard. Play a Steinway as a Steinway, play a Walter as a Walter.

Patrick: Your intentions as an interpreter clearly have to be treated differently in various situations. Can you elaborate on this?


Ronald: Well, I have also found that each instrument has its own sense of ‘tempo giusto’. An adagio will somehow be played slower on a Steinway than on a Walter, simply because of what the ear picks up. A performer constantly assesses the sound coming out of the piano, is forever making small adjustments to tempo and dynamics according to what he hears. When a note dies out on a fortepiano, the following note in the melody will come sooner, to keep the melody flowing. On a Steinway, where the length of the melody note seems endless, the timing of the following note will naturally be different, resulting in a slightly slower tempo. The much lighter action of a fortepiano makes for crisp, fast tempi that could never work on a modern piano.
The third, and final element where there is a difference in approach is articulation. Owing to its quick damper action and shorter tone, a fortepiano has a speaking quality, whereas a modern piano is by nature a singing instrument. Articulation on a fortepiano is an organic part of its speech, on a Steinway it can sometimes feel a bit ‘amputated’: just as the tone is getting ready to give it a go, it is cut off. This asks for a slightly more conservative handling of the articulation on a modern piano; as I said before, never do anything against the character of an instrument. Again, you have to make a translation of the original articulation into something that suits a modern piano.

Patrick: Thank you for taking the time talking to us and good luck with your projects and concerts!

Ronald: You’re welcome, the pleasure was all mine!

Ronald Brautigam, fortepiano, and Die Kölner Akademie under Michael Alexander Willens recording Mozart Piano Concertos in Cologne, November 2009:

Video from BBC, Ronald Brautigam plays W.A. Mozart´s Piano Concerto no. 20 in D minor, mvt 3 performed on a pianoforte:

More Ronald Brautigam on fortepiano:

Mozart – Complete Keyboard Sonatas & Variations

Haydn – Complete Music for Solo Keyboard
Beethoven: Complete Works for Solo Piano, vol. 8


Brautigam Summing-Up Beethoven’s Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra

Beethoven’s Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra Now Available

For the final instalment of his survey of Beethoven’s works for piano and orchestra on BIS label, Ronald Brautigam has saved ‘the final crowning glory of his concerto output’, as Beethoven specialist Barry Cooper describes the Fifth Piano Concerto in his liner notes. The work has become known as the Emperor Concerto, as it shares its key (E flat major) as well as a certain sense of power and grandeur with the Third Symphony, the ‘Eroica’. It is coupled on this disc with the Choral Fantasia – an intriguing work scored for piano, orchestra and chorus with vocal soloists. The explanation for this unusual combination is that Beethoven wanted to provide a fitting finale for one of his mammoth concerts in Vienna. The concert, which took place on 22 December 1808, included performances of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies as well as the Fourth Piano Concerto and two movements from the Mass in C major; the Choral Fantasia thus brought all of the evening’s performers on stage once more before the end of the concert.

The individual discs in Ronald Brautigam’s series have received numerous distinctions, including a MIDEM Classical Award in 2010, and his performances have been weighed against classic recordings by legendary pianists. “Brautigam’s account [of Concerto No. 1] compares with Richter’s for sparkle, with Pollini’s for cleverness, and with Michelangeli’s for liveliness… The performance of Beethoven’s Third Concerto that follows is even better”, wrote the reviewer on website AllMusic.com, while the one in Gramophone deemed that the recording of the Second Concerto was “almost as good as Serkin’s account with Ormandy, which is saying something!”
In the review in International Record Review of the penultimate volume, finally, the series so far was summed up as follows: “For my money, Brautigam and Parrott are setting a new bench-mark, and I eagerly await the final instalment.”

It is of course a great pleasure to be able to announce the release of that longed-for disc, with Ronald Brautigam, the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Parrott in their usual top form, and with the brief but crucial appearance of the eminent Eric Ericson Chamber Choir in the Choral Fantasia.

As mentioned in February on Piano Street’s blog, Brautigam’s prizewinning CD is one of the recordings which Ronald Brautigam made for the Swedish recording company BIS. This CD contains the two earliest composed concerti of which the second piano concerto was written earlier than the first and then edited later which explains the numbering. The first of these is the Piano Concerto in E flat major, WoO4, sometimes referred to as Beethoven’s “Concerto No.0”. Composed in 1784, when Beethoven was only 13 years old, it is a fully developed three-movement work that displays much imagination, harmonic control and sense of form, as well as a striking level of virtuosity. The work has survived in a contemporary copy of the piano part, incorporating directions showing that the original orchestra consisted of two flutes, two horns, and strings.
For this recording Ronald Brautigam has made his own reconstruction of the orchestral score. The third work on the disc is also one without opus number, namely the Rondo in B flat major, WoO6, composed during the long gestation of Concerto No.2 and probably at one stage intended as the finale of this work.

Brautigam´s reconstructed E flat major, WoO4, the score is available for purchase from Alba Music Press

Other releases in the Beethoven Complete Concertos series on BIS

Read more:
Exciting Time Travels – Exclusive Interview with Ronald Brautigam


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