In a way, I suppose, this release was the next logical step. Pianist Ronald Brautigam and the Kölner Akademie have already recorded the complete piano concertos of Mozart, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn. Presenting those of Carl Maria von Weber helps fill out that timeline.
Von Weber was a younger contemporary of Ludwig van Beethoven, and his music draws more on the style of Mozart and Haydn. The first of his two piano concertos illustrates that.
The Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major is a classically balanced work. The clear textures and straight-forward harmonies seem Mozartian, with perhaps a dash of Mendelssohn.
Piano Concerto No. 2 in E-flat major seems more strongly influenced by Beethoven. In 1811 the “Emporer” concerto (also in E-flat) premiered. To my ears, it doesn’t sound as if Weber is imitated, Beethoven. Rather, it seems as if Beethoven’s inspired Weber to be more adventurous — which he is.
That adventure continues with the Konzerstücke in F minor from 1821. Here Weber’s music leans towards Romanticism.
Ronald Brautigam performs with a fortepiano modeled after an 1819 Conrad Graf. It’s a good choice, as all three works fit nicely to the instrument. Brautigam’s playing is precise and expressive. His powerful gestures heighten the stormy dramas in the second concerto and Konzertstucke.
The Kölner Akademie, directed by Michael Alexander Willens also delivers some spirited performances. The ensemble also uses period instruments, but that doesn’t lessen their impact.
I have heard period-instrument performances of Weber that seem flat. Not here. There’s plenty of dynamic contrast. And even though the ensemble has a different color to it than a modern chamber orchestra, it still engages the ear.
Some of that may be due to the recording. The SACD version delivers exceptionally fine detail through a good system (or headphones).
A fine addition to the catalog of these musicians.
Carl Maria von Weber: Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra
Ronald Brautigam, fortepiano
Kölner Akademie; Michael Alexander Willens, conductor
BIS 2384 SACD