Ludwig van Beethoven
Variations WoO 77; Allegretto WoO 61; Ecossaises WoO 83

Media Review / Listening Diary 2013-03-21

2013-03-21 — Original posting (on Blogger)
2014-11-08 — Re-posting as is (WordPress)
2016-07-12 — Brushed up for better readability

A short piano intermezzo, covering smaller compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

Beethoven: 6 Variations on an Original Theme, WoO 77

Ronald Brautigam, fortepiano

Beethoven: vol.11 - Eroica Variations, Brautigam — CD coverLudwig van Beethoven: Complete Works for Solo Piano, Volume 11: Variations WoO 71-73; Variations WoO 75-77; Variations op.35 (“Eroica”)

Ronald Brautigam, fortepiano (2010)

BIS-SACD-1673 (SACD stereo + surround, CD stereo); ℗ 2011 / © 2012
Beethoven: vol.11 - Eroica Variations, Brautigam — CD, EAN-13 barcode
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Olli Mustonen, piano

Beethoven: Piano Variations, Dances, Bagatelles, Mustonen, CD coverLudwig van Beethoven: Variations, Dances & Bagatelles

Olli Mustonen, piano (1995)

Decca 452 206-2 (CD, stereo), ℗ / © 1996
Beethoven: Piano Variations, Dances, Bagatelles, Mustonen, CD, UPC-A barcode
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Olli Mustonen recorded these variations in 1995, on the same CD that also features the Variations on the Minuet “à la Viganò”, WoO 68 that I discussed briefly in January — and I give him the same rating here as already in WoO 68 — I like his playing: for this type of music I can hardly imagine a more refreshing, vivid interpretation on a modern concert grand! Duration: 6’03”; rating: 4.0

However, for me, the concert grand does not stand a chance against Ronald Brautigam on his fortepiano replica after an instrument by Walter & Son (Vienna, 1805): the singing tone of this instrument can’t possibly be matched on a Steinway— see also my review on the “Eroica” Variations, op.35 from the same CD (though op.35 is played on a replica of a fortepiano by Conrad Graf, also by Paul McNulty). Duration: 7’16”; rating: 5.0

Still, both these recordings are very well worth having!

Beethoven: Allegretto in B minor, WoO 61


Beethoven: vol.10 - Für Elise, Bagatelles, Brautigam — CD, coverLudwig van Beethoven: “Für Elise”, The Complete Bagatelles — opp.33, 119, 126; Hess 57, 69, 73, 74; WoO 52 – 54, 56, 59 – 61, 61a

Ronald Brautigam (2010)

BIS Records, BIS-SACD-1882 (SACD); ℗ / © 2011
Beethoven: vol.10 - Für Elise, Bagatelles, Brautigam — CD, EAN-13 barcode
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Olli Mustonen‘s CD (see the section above) includes Beethoven’s Allegretto in B minor, WoO 61.

That Allegretto is also included on volume 10 of Ronald Brautigam‘s complete Beethoven recording, from which we already discussed the Bagatelle “Lustig und Traurig”, as well as the 6 Bagatelles op.126. Ronald Brautigam plays this on a fortepiano by Paul McNulty, a replica of an instrument by Conrad Graf (1819); he plays a proper Allegretto, faster than Mustonen (2’06” as opposed to 3’46” with Mustonen).

Mustonen‘s interpretation may not be quite Allegretto, but gives this composition more weight, a contemplative, melancholic mood. Brautigam plays this in a hearted mood, makes it sound more like a composing attempt, and one can feel & hear why Beethoven probably decided not to put this movement into the context of a sonata and publish it.

I think both interpretations are good / excellent (same rating: 4.0) — I don’t really know which one to prefer, as different as they are!

Beethoven: 6 Ecossaises, WoO 83


Beethoven: Für Elise, Eroica Variations, Bagatelles, Brendel, CD, coverLudwig van Beethoven: Variations, op.35; Bagatelles, op.126; 6 Ecossaises, WoO 83

Alfred Brendel, piano (1985)

Decca (Amazon MP3 download, stereo, 173 – 230 kbps)
Beethoven: Für Elise, Eroica Variations, Bagatelles, Brendel, CD, UPC-A barcode
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In my basement I still have an LP with Beethoven’s 6 Ecossaises, WoO 83, played by Wilhelm Kempff in a good / reasonable, though traditional interpretation (duration: 2’35”) that I still remember fairly well (even though it’s probably around 35 – 40 years since I last listened to that LP). The above CD with interpretations by Alfred Brendel gave me a new encounter with this lovely, short composition: Brendel gives — as expected — a more “intellectual” interpretation, somewhat faster (duration: 2’02” — 6 tracks!!!), and with lighter articulation, more differentiation.

Then, there’s Olli Mustonen who also plays these Ecossaises on the CD presented in the previous section above — and he is again (substantially) faster (duration: 1’37”), sparkling, with liveliness and vitality, as usual: just brilliant, especially for these miniatures!

I obviously have a slight preference for Olli Mustonen in this — though I give both Mustonen and Brendel top ratings.

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