Accompanied by the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest (Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra), Dutch concert pianist Ronald Brautigam performs Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21. Conductor: Krzysztof Urbanski. Recorded during The Sunday Morning Concert on April 2, 2017 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Published by the AVROTROS Klassiek.
Chopin wrote the piece in 1870, at around 20 years of age, before he had finished his formal education. Chopin’s two piano concertos were written within a year of each other. It was the second of his piano concertos to be published (after the Piano Concerto No. 1), and so was designated as “No. 2”, even though it was written first.
The work contains the three movements typical of instrumental concertos of the period:
- Maestoso (F minor): The first movement is cast in double-exposition form, a variant of classical sonata form dating back to the eighteenth century, typically employed in concertos. The movement opens with a long orchestral exposition initially characterized by dotted, mazurka-like rhythms. Once the piano enters, the orchestra retreats into the background, the soloist carrying the musical argument from then on. The solo part enthusiastically offers up the full panoply of the virtuoso style yet tempers its razzle-dazzle showmanship with a degree of poetic cantilena atypical for concertos of the day. There is no need for a cadenza, given the nonstop virtuosity of the solo writing throughout the movement.
- Larghetto (A flat major): Chopin intended the second movement as an expression of his first acute love for a woman, Konstancja Gladkowska, of whom he writes: “I already have my perfect one whom I have, without saying a word, served faithfully for a year now, of whom I dream, in whose memory the adagio of my concerto has been put up.”
- Allegro vivace (F minor): In the finale, the violins and violas are at one point instructed to play col legno (with the wood of the bow). This movement arranged in a three-part, rondo-like form, offers up unmistakable references to Polish folk music, in the piquantly off-kilter rhythms of the mazurka and its slightly slower cousin, the kujawiak. The entire movement is refreshingly free of the endless figurations and pointless bombast of contemporary concertos, but nonetheless brings the work to an appropriately vivacious close.
Ronald Brautigam (born 1954 in Amsterdam) is a Dutch concert pianist, best known for his performances of Beethoven’s piano works on the fortepiano. He studied with Jan Wijn and left to study in London and in the United States. His skill as a pianist was recognised by Dutch musicians and in 1984 he was awarded the Nederlandse Muziekprijs.
A student of the legendary Rudolf Serkin, Ronald Brautigam performs regularly with leading orchestras including the Royal Concertgebouw, London Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Budapest Festival Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and the Rundfunk- Sinfonieorchester Berlin.
He has performed alongside a number of distinguished conductors including Riccardo Chailly, Charles Dutoit, Bernard Haitink, Frans Brüggen, Christopher Hogwood, Marek Janowski, Sir Roger Norrington, Marin Alsop, Ivor Bolton, Sir Simon Rattle, Ivan Fisher and Sir Mark Elder.
Besides his performances on modern instruments Ronald Brautigam has established himself as a leading exponent of the fortepiano, working with orchestras such as the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Tafelmusik, 18th-Century Orchestra, the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, the Hanover band, the Wiener Akademie, Concerto Copenhagen and l’Orchestre des Champs-Elysées.