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Thursday, September 26, 2019

James Brawn, A Beethoven Odyssey, Volume 6, Sonatas 4, 11, 12

You can live with the Beethoven Piano Sonatas a lifetime and still hear new things in it all, from recordings, live performances, self-playing, wherever the tradition is kept alive, even if but in your earphones or in the living room. And we have today another volume in the complete sonata opus by James Brawn, A Beethoven Odyssey, Volume 6 (MSR Classics MS 1470). Nothing stands still and Maestro Brawn gives us his own movement to the musical life-stream. This is a carefully expressive series of versions, in this case of Sonatas 4, 11 and 12.

There is plenty of technique but it does not dominate so much as allow Brawn to bring out the full Beethoven depth-of-field, to focus on the whole. Listen to his rendition of the beautifully lyrical  Largo from the 4th or the opening Andante from the 12th, or the gorgeously moving Minuetto from no. 11, and you get a sampling of these poetic but tempered set of readings, lovely and at the same time natural, unforced, heartful without being mawkish, not at all grandstanding. The music does not call attention to itself as a virtuoso vehicle so much as pure energy and melodic-harmonic brilliance. You listen, you are reminded just how central this music is now and was then, how breathtakingly innovative and expressive the Beethoven opus was and still remains.

We are invited to swim in the refreshing currents of an interpreter that digs deeply into the Beethovenian substratum, rings out and sings out the glorious sense of movement this music instills in you at its best. You literally hear Beethoven forge his signature revolution bit-by-bit if you listen to them all in sequence. But in this case we have a ways to go. No matter, for at least my self I am very glad to hear the Brawn exegesis.

Recommended for those who want a straightforward composer-oriented reading of the sonatas. Volume 6 does not disappoint and will make you want to hear the others. It is a worthwhile use of your time and listening energies. Brawn is a poet laureate of the ivories, indeed. Bravo.

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