The works on this first volume were composed between 1797 and 1800, when Beethoven was not yet thirty years old.
They are performed on a fortepiano especially built for this project by Paul McNulty after a Walther & Sohn instrument from about 1802.
In "Early Vienna Sonatas", the second disc of the series, we go backwards in time a couple of years. Beethoven has just arrived
in Vienna, and is taking lessons with Haydn – lessons which he himself found less than earth-shattering. He has also made the
acquaintance of Prince Lichnowsky, a patron whose support would be very important for the young composer during the coming decades.
The Op. 2 sonatas were in fact first performed at a concert at Prince Lichnowsky’s residence before an audience which included Haydn,
who insisted on a dedication – to Beethoven’s annoyance.
(He privately stated that he had ‘nie etwas gelernt’ (‘never learned anything’) from Haydn.) Written by a young man obviously intending
to make his mark, the Op. 2 sonatas are on a much grander scale than those of Haydn and Mozart. They are also much more virtuosic.
Alongside with Brautigam’s playing, his instrument – by master builder Paul McNaulty – and the quality of the recordings – by Ingo Petry
– have also been singled out for praise. These three join forces once more, in the Sonatas Op. 7 and Op. 10, composed by a Beethoven who
at 26 had become the talk of all Vienna, and whose services as a performer, composer and teacher were avidly sought after by the aristocracy.
The Sonata Op. 7, at the time nicknamed Die Verliebte, was dedicated to one of Beethoven’s pupils, the Countess Barbara Keglevics,
with whom he may have been in love. Be that as it may – the sonata’s strong focus on emotional and psychological effects has made many
consider it a milestone in Beethoven’s development: the first Romantic work he produced. The young composer’s desire to break away
from the classical mould is also evident in the three sonatas Op. 10, most particularly in No. 3, with its highly romantic and
personal second movement.
With this the fourth volume - which features one of the best loved of all of Beethoven's works, the ‘Moonlight Sonata’ - Ronald Brautigam
reaches the year 1800. While still only thirty years of age, Beethoven is firmly established as a composer, pianist and teacher to the highest
echelons of Viennese society. But far from contenting himself, he is forever looking forwards and these sonatas take us a great step towards the
Romantic era. The Sonata Op. 26 is especially famous for its third movement, the Funeral March, which was played at Beethoven's own funeral.
Sonata No. 13 is, like the Moonlight Sonata, subtitled 'quasi una fantasia', and a fascinating development of the genre. The 'Pastorale', finally,
exposes another side of the composer - from 1800 onwards Beethoven spent most summers in the countryside and this sonata reflects
the quiet country life he enjoyed so much.