JAMES BRAWN

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A BEETHOVEN ODYSSEY - VOL.5

A BEETHOVEN ODYSSEY - VOL.5

Piano Sonatas Nos.5-7 & 10

Ludwig van Beethoven

JAMES BRAWN, piano

[MS1469]

$14.95

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PROGRAM NOTES
Click here to read a fascinating feature on Brawn's Odyssey appearing in Clavier Companion.

THE OPUS 10 SONATAS

PIANO SONATA NO.5 IN C MINOR, OP.10 NO.1
I began work on this sonata in Melbourne, Australia, in December 2008 and finally recorded it at Potton Hall in the UK in April of 2017. It is the first of the Op.10 trio of sonatas which were dedicated to the Countess Anna Margarete von Browne, whose husband was an important patron of Beethoven around the time of their composition (between 1796 and 1798). The sonata contains three wonderfully contrasted movements filled with dramatic tension, vocal lines and musical ideas that foreshadow elements of Beethoven’s future compositions. The first movement (C minor), is to be played at a very lively tempo with quite angular phrasing and dotted rhythms. The second theme provides some relief in the relative major key. As in all Beethoven, the dynamic range is extreme, and together with sudden changes, produce feelings of intense expression. The very slow second movement in A-flat major has great pathos. It is in A-B-A-B form with a Coda that is generous and warm. The sustained legato vocal line fades to a pianissimo ending on the tonic chord. The Finale is quite a surprise and very fast. Beethoven uses syncopation and varied articulation to great comedic effect. The middle section, the development, hammers out the “fate” motif and the Coda contains a slow diminished seventh arpeggio figure that can be heard later in his “Tempest” sonata (No.17).

PIANO SONATA NO.6 IN F MAJOR, OP.10 NO.2
Unfortunately, none of the sonatas on this recording have nicknames. Perhaps they might be more popular and performed more often with descriptive titles. Of  course Beethoven, like many composers, was content with just a publishing opus number. Could this Opus 10 No.2 be given a name like “The Jester” as suggested by a friend of mine? It was one of Beethoven’s favourite sonatas, sharing the F major key signature with both his “Spring” violin sonata and the “Pastoral” symphony. Beethoven was always proving his ability as a great pianist and genius composer in tandem. The first movement is long, with both sections being repeated, requiring a virtuoso stamina and fine control of finger work to handle the extensive broken octaves and crossed hands. The Allegretto is in the form of a Minuet and Trio, with a feeling of darkness pervading the F minor outer sections. The Presto movement is highly virtuosic and demanding for the pianist. It is in sonata form, but with elements of fugato style.

PIANO SONATA NO.7 IN D MAJOR, OP.10 NO.3
The longest and greatest of the Op.10 sonatas, No.3 in D major has four movements. It follows traditional Classical sonata tempo structure: fast, slow, dance, fast. The sonata begins with a popular thematic device known as the “Mannheim rocket”, brilliant staccato ascending octaves followed immediately by a legato descending phrase. The first four notes form a motif that reappears in various guises throughout the sonata. The second group and development utilises it almost endlessly. At the time of the work’s composition, Beethoven was confined to a piano that only had a five octave range - F to F. In this recording, I have chosen to play beyond that range in those measures where the phrase requires an extension of notes above or below. The D minor slow movement is one of the most dramatic and tragic in the earlier sonatas. It is in sonata form and in a key that expresses the utmost seriousness and feelings of lamentation. Beethoven tries in vain to give some hope at the beginning of the development in F major, but the mournful sobbing cries of a man in pain return and descend to the recapitulation. The coda is impassioned and finishes in gloomy resignation. But life begins again in the following Menuetto and Trio. The depression lifts and Beethoven is able to smile and have fun, especially in the G major trio section. The Rondo begins with a theme that asks a question, and many times over! Each time, there are variations in dynamics, notes and rhythm. The close of the sonata evaporates to nothing; just a chromatic scale and descending arpeggio ending in dramatic silence.

PIANO SONATA NO.10 IN G MAJOR, OP.14 NO.2
Beethoven dedicated the two Op.14 sonatas to the wealthy Baroness Josefa von Braun, an important patroness of that time. Composed in his late twenties, the second sonata has a lyrical quality and is in three movements. The Allegro, in G major, begins amiably enough with a cantabile legato theme, but contains some rhythmic ambiguity. The development is long and dramatic with many key changes, pauses and sudden dynamic contrasts. The second movement, Andante, is in the form of a theme and three variations. It sounds a little like a military march in alla breve time, but with a rather humorous quality. After the surprise ending, the Scherzo (a “joke”) follows in Rondo form. It is fast, and filled with rhythmic ambiguities from the outset. Scales, crossed hands, pauses,  accents and dramatic silences bring this sonata to a delightful and quite magical ending.
[James Brawn, October 2017]


James Brawn began his career at age 12 with an Australian debut in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.25 in C major. Brawn credits subsequent achievements to the great pianists with whom he has studied, taking pride in teachers who trace their pedagogical lineage back to Ludwig van Beethoven, Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt and Clara Schumann. Yet, he has forged his own musical path, as a soloist, chamber musician and pedagogue. Born in England in 1971, his career in music began in New Zealand, where he began piano lessons at age seven. He performed works by Bela Bartók on New Zealand television and won his first awards in Auckland. The family moved to Australia the following year, where he studied with Margaret Schofield, Ronald Farren-Price and Rita Reichman, winning major prizes at all the Melbourne competitions as well as the Hephzibah Menuhin  Award, presented by Yehudi Menuhin. In 1987, Brawn reached the concerto final of the ABC Young Performers Awards, which led to concerts with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. He continued private study with Rita Reichman in Philadelphia on a grant from the Australia Arts Council, and in 1988 received a full scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he won many recital awards, including the Beethoven Prize and 20th Century Prize. At age 19, Brawn won the Keyboard Final of the Royal Over-Seas League Music Competition at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, which resulted in solo recitals and chamber music partnerships at music societies and festivals across the United Kingdom. From 1993-2001, Brawn taught piano and chamber music at King’s College and St. John’s College schools in Cambridge. In 2001, he returned to Australia to take up a piano teaching position at highly regarded Scotch College, where he co-founded the biennial Scotch College Piano Festival. Brawn has recorded for RTHK Radio 4 in Hong Kong, ABC Classic FM, and 3MBS radio in Melbourne. He returned to the United Kingdom in 2010, performing regular solo recitals at venues in and around London, including St. James’s Piccadilly, Blackheath Halls, Foundling Museum, The Forge, Royal Over-Seas League and St. Olave Church. Significant engagements include recitals at Chichester Cathedral, Cheltenham Town Hall, the Bösendorfer concert series at St. Mary Magdalene and the ‘Pianists of the World’ series at St.Martin-in-the-Fields. Brawn has performed in master classes with András Schiff, Tamás Vásáry, Menahem Pressler and Stephen Kovacevich, and studied chamber music with members of the Amadeus and Chilingirian Quartets. Recital performances have taken him to France, Italy, China, Canada and the United States. In 2015, James Brawn was made a Steinway Artist and during 2016 he joined the piano faculty of the FaceArt Institute of Music in Shanghai. [ www.jamesbrawn.com ]
PROGRAM
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770 - 1827)
PIANO SONATA NO.5 IN C MINOR, OP.10 NO.1 (1796-98)
I. Allegro molto e con brio
II. Adagio molto
III. Finale (Prestissimo)

PIANO SONATA NO.6 IN F MAJOR, OP.10 NO.2 (1796-98)
I. Allegro
II. Allegretto
III. Presto

PIANO SONATA NO.7 IN D MAJOR, OP.10 NO.3 (1796-98)
I. Presto
II. Largo e mesto
III. Menuetto (Allegro) & Trio
IV. Rondo (Allegro)

PIANO SONATA NO.10 IN G MAJOR, OP.14 NO.2 (1798-99)
I. Allegro
II. Andante
III. Scherzo (Allegro assai)
 



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