Beethoven: Piano Concertos no. 4 (op58) and D Major (op61)

A reworking of two of Beethoven's most famous pieces is based on original manuscripts and performed with a fascinating authenticity.

Beethoven's life and music have been under considerable scrutiny of late. Last year's critically acclaimed documentary In Search of Beethoven, a study by Phil Grabsky, featured foremost Beethoven experts and performers offering insight into the composer's life. One was the Dutch pianist Ronald Brautigam, who, on the film, performed Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 4 in G Major with the Norrkopping Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Parrott. Here, the same ensemble performs that work, written in 1805-06, but with an intriguing shift: the solo part has been given, by the British Beethoven expert Barry Cooper, an 1808 reworking based on manuscripts from the time. Even the manner in which they play it is of the period. It creates a sort of eerie but affecting rawness, to the strings parts in particular. Likewise with op 61, a piece much more frequently heard with strings and orchestra, but which here has been given a piano solo. The part was written by Beethoven for the Italian pianist Muzio Clementi, but recordings of this version are few. The result is an intriguingly familiar yet invigorated sound; the piano part gives the piece a lightness unmatched by the strings. These are fascinating reworkings of two of Beethoven's most recorded works, performed with laudable authenticity by Brautigam and the Norrkopping Symphony.