Johann Wilhelm Wilms: The Piano Concertos Vol. 2

World Premiere Recording Johann Wilhelm Wilms Piano Concertos Vol. 2

Ronald Brautigam (Hammerklavier), Kölner Akademie, Ltg.: Michael Alexander Willens

In his compositional heyday, Johann Wilhelm Wilms created seven piano concertos, published between 1799 and 1820, of which only five remain today. Following the highly successful recording of the first three piano concertos Kölner Akademie, together with pianist Ronald Brautigam and under the direction of Michael Alexander Willens, has now also released the two concertos No. 4 in F major, Op. 32, and No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 55. In this case, too, the concertos were edited by Ronald Brautigam himself.

In 1814 the fourth piano concerto was published by Breitkopf & Härtel and thus in a time in which one recovered politically and socially from the Napoleonic rule as well as Wilms himself could also achieve great success. In his fourth piano concerto he now for the first time establishes an orchestral instrumentation with bassoons, trumpets and timpani. Already in the first movement, the piano loses all heaviness in its solo part and lets the sound float. Brautigam and the Kölner Akademie already realize this movement with virtuosity and in best balance with the historical instruments. The introduction of the slow movement in the woodwinds is already beautifully crafted, merging into an ever-flowing dialogue between soloist and orchestra. The freedom that Wilms allows the soloist in the slow middle movement is filled with beautiful variations. Full of lightness, as already at the beginning, is also the final movement, a lively ritornello, peppered with numerous piano garlands and figures, which are discreetly accompanied only by a reduced string apparatus. Brautigam and the Kölner Akademie perform this lively final movement rapidly and with audible joy.

Six years later, in 1820, the last of the surviving piano concertos appeared, the E-flat major concerto. Here, for the first time, Wilms uses clarinets in his piano concertos, which also explains why he attaches special importance to the woodwinds. This is already evident in the first movement, in which the woodwinds of Kölner Akademie are allowed to shine. The piano part is virtuosic: multifaceted and with bold harmonies Brautigam also realizes it. The theme of the slow middle movement, which is also accompanied only very discreetly, is presented in an indulgent manner and very freely by the piano. Here the Kölner Akademie carries Brautigam musically on its hands! The work concludes with a lively sweep in the form of a rondo, which with its skilful contrasts in terms of themes, compositional technique and dramaturgy not only demonstrates Wilms’ entire compositional art, but also that he was less concerned with virtuoso bravado than with elegant, artistic piano playing – at this point excellently realized by Brautigam.

One of the leading pianists of his generation, Ronald Brautigam is one of the few to perform at the highest level on modern as well as period instruments. A student of the legendary Rudolf Serkin, he has over the years established himself as an authority on the classical and early romantic composers, with an acclaimed discography on the BIS label that includes complete cycles of works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven as well as recordings of solo works and concertos by Kraus, Weber and Mendelssohn. Ronald Brautigam has performed with leading orchestras across the world – from the

Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra – as well as the foremost period ensembles. In 2009 he began what has proved a highly successful collaboration with the Kölner Akademie and its conductor Michael Alexander Willens, resulting in acclaimed recordings of the complete piano concertos of Mozart (11 discs), Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Weber. Current recording projects include the piano concertos by the Dutch-German composer Johann Wilhelm Wilms (1772 – 1847). His editorial work includes a reconstruction of the orchestral score of Beethoven’s piano concerto WoO4 from 1784, as well as an edition of the 5 piano concertos by Johann Wilhelm Wilms.

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