Music Web International: Outstanding August 2012: "As part of the series this release is indispensable"; Klassik.com: Quadruple 4 Stars August 2012.
In March 1783, the readers of Cramer’s Magazin der Musik could read about a certain ‘Louis van Betthoven’, a ‘boy … of most promising talent’, whose first published work was being advertised as 'nine variations for the pianoforte, written by him on a march, engraved at Mannheim.’ The piece in question was the Dressler Variations, WoO 63, and it marked not only the beginning of an illustrious career, but also the start of Ludwig van Beethoven's lifelong involvement with variation form, culminating almost forty years later in the monumental Diabelli Variations for solo piano, and – in another field – the third movement of his Ninth symphony.
In comparison, WoO 63 and the other works included here are certainly less heavy-weight, even if the so-called Venni Amore Variations, WoO 65, has a duration of more than 20 minutes, and in spite of its early date (1790/91) points forward to a much later period in Beethoven's œuvre. The final set of variations on the disc, the Six variations on Nel cor più non mi sento, WoO 70 were composed in 1795, around the same time as the three piano sonatas Op.2.
In this series, Ronald Brautigam has previously recorded early sonatas and sonatinas from the same period as the present works, a disc described by the reviewer on German web site Klassik Heute as ‘providing a touching illustration of those times when the great Beethoven was simply young Ludwig’ through playing which is ‘simultaneously committed to the utmost purity of style and imbued with an immense musical exuberance’. As on the previous instalment in the series, Brautigam has chosen to perform these early variations on a fortepiano after a Walter & Sohn instrument from c.1805.
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