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Piano Sonatas Nos.9, 15, 24, 25 and 27

Ludwig van Beethoven





Click HERE to see James Brawn discussing Beethoven's Piano Sonatas.
“the latest in Brawn’s Beethoven piano sonatas CDs is packed with optimism and simple delight in music-making – both from the composer and his interpreter... [Brawn shows] sensitivity to texture and intention that makes one look forward even more to the next product in this excellent series.”
Clive O'Connell, O'Connell The Music [November 2016]
John Puccio, Classical Candor [December 2015]
“[ * * * * * ] Brawn’s Odyssey continues through volume four of his complete Beethoven series. I was overwhelmingly impressed by the first three volumes, MSR’s warm and comforting sound the perfect foil for Brawn’s incisive and quite penetrating interpretative finesse... Hearing these discs make Beethoven’s sonatas sound so 'right', as satisfying as any on the market, bold, personal, extrovert but not annoying, ruminative but not frustratingly esoteric—no secret society Beethoven in these readings! The crisp articulation and wonderful sense of rubato are demonstrated in each of these timeline-scattered pieces... What is most assured is Brawn’s ability to tie together the common thread of emotion and feeling into such a unified whole that the entire recital feels almost like a suite instead of a succession of four sonatas... Brawn has taken the Beethoven sonata world by storm with these releases, and this latest continues the magnificence of its predecessors. He is an artist who relishes the past, and builds on it, not just trying to uncover something unique, but to illumine and respond to what is obviously there. I have encountered few recordings that are as inevitable-sounding as these, and when I look at my existing collection, more and more I find myself least able to consider parting with Mr. Brawn’s project. They are that good, and this disc only proves the point once again from a pianist who could be destined for really great things.”
Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition [December 2015]
Top Classical Recordings of 2015 “The playing throughout is refined and effortless, nowhere more so than in the last (no. 27), whose quizzical structure and content play to all of Brawn’s considerable strengths.”
Jonathan Blumhofer, ArtsFuse, Boston [December 2015]
Performance Review: 17 August 2015, St James's Piccadilly, London. “The pianist James Brawn has been carving out quite a reputation for himself as a Beethovenian, with a series of very well received CD recordings, so we were delighted to present him in a serious programme of three Beethoven Sonatas... playing of beautiful naturalness... His "Pastoral" Sonata started beautifully, as warm and affectionate as one could want... many things to admire and enjoy; enormously promising.”
Julian Jacobson, Chairman, Beethoven Piano Society of Europe (BPSE) [November 2015]
“One thing that can’t be said for James Brawn is that his offerings aren’t generous, for here we have on a single disc no fewer than five of Beethoven’s sonatas, admittedly some of his shorter and perhaps less consequential ones, but nonetheless making for a well-filled disc… As for James Brawn’s playing of these works… Brawn is duly respectful of the composer’s intentions and the music’s dramatic, lyrical, expressive, and emotional potentials… It also suffices to say that Brawn’s finger technique and pedaling are impeccable, that he intuits with musical intelligence what it is that makes each of these sonatas work, and that he plays fluently and draws from his Steinway grand great depth and beauty of tone. There are recently completed Beethoven piano sonata cycles by Mari Kodama, François-Frédéric Guy, and Michael Korstick, and one soon to be completed Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. I’m comfortable in recommending James Brawn as the equal of any of them.”
Jerry Dubins, Fanfare, Issue 39:2 [Nov/Dec 2015]
“As for the performances [here], they are quite fine once again. One thing you notice about Brawn's playing on this disc and throughout much of the series so far is his way of making you see the music in a somewhat different light… Brawn gets high marks for volume 4 in this ongoing series. While there is no shortage of excellent Beethoven sonata cycles on disc, this one must be welcomed enthusiastically because of Brawn's extraordinary artistry. In addition, the album notes are insightful and the sound reproduction is excellent… I'll summarize here by saying that at this juncture Brawn would appear to be competitive with the finest past sets of the Beethoven sonatas. Highly recommended.”
Robert Cummings, Classical Net [August 2015]
“So what sets James Brawn's set apart [from other Beethoven cycles], so far? He performs every sonata observing all repeats, for one thing. This in effect makes every sonata stand out as a significant effort on Beethoven's part… each [sonata] is given a very well-balanced reading, warm and dynamic as called for but also with a classical feeling of balance between the affective and the intricately brilliant structure of each work… James Brawn, so far in the cycle, gives us the sonatas in readings that seem right for the times we live in. They are not unmindful of the contrasts and dynamics as Beethoven must have imagined them in performance, but they are not the super-romantic potboilers of yesterday, wearing heart on sleeve for an audience that demands grandstanding.  So if all goes according to plan the final complete set gives us a Beethoven for our contemporary-modern sensibilities, fully mindful of the lyrical and structural, the impassioned and the balanced, without overdoing any one element…. I do recommend [Brawn’s cycle]. Brawn gets inside Beethoven as we would wish to hear him today. Bravo!”
Grego Edwards, Gapplegate Classical Review [August 2015]
“James Brawn’s Beethoven sonata series may be the most exciting cycle currently being recorded. A pianist in his mid-forties, Brawn had, until this series began, been primarily known as a teacher in Australia and a mainstay of the recital circuit in the UK and Commonwealth. As it turns out, he is also a supremely intelligent Beethoven performer... Brawn favours using the full dynamic range and expressive capabilities of the modern Steinway... [his playing is] clear, dignified, authoritative... robust and hearty... when you live with Brawn’s Beethoven for a month or two, as I have in preparing this review, you only grow more impressed... James Brawn’s Beethoven sonata cycle has a chance to be one of the best of its decade.”
Brian Reinhart, MusicWeb International [October 2015]
“James Brawn's growing series of the complete Beethoven Sonatas reveals him to be a naturally impressive artist in this repertoire... there is no doubt that Brawn is a deeply committed and intensely musical interpreter of Beethoven. These performances seem to us to be of the kind that one must take very seriously, and we look forward keenly to further releases in a cycle that could well turn out to be one of the more significant to have been released for some time. The recording quality is first-class... a genuine Beethoven interpreter.”
Robert Matthew-Walker [Musical Opinion, August 2015]
“Both in recital and in recording studios, many pianists have essayed traversals of the complete cycle of sonatas, but few of them have exhibited connection with the music to rival James Brawn's submersion in the music over the course of his Beethoven Odyssey...To the earnest young pianist, there is an euphoria in successfully performing a Beethoven sonata that is surely something like summiting Everest or hiking the Appalachian Trail end to end. More than almost any others known to this listener, the performances on this installment in James Brawn's Beethoven Odyssey exude this elation. There are numerous recordings of artfully-played, intuitively-interpreted accounts of Beethoven's sonatas, but few discs invite the listener into the processes of discovery and discussion as palpably as does this one. The odyssey is not solely shared between Beethoven and Brawn: every listener, too, is invited to learn, luxuriate, and love.”
Joey Newsome, Voix des Arts [August 2015]
“One of the joys of reviewing new releases last year came courtesy of the first three installments of James Brawn’s traversal of the thirty-two Beethoven piano sonatas. There are, of course, many fine and historic accounts of these iconic works, but, in the first three volumes, Brawn’s fresh interpretations of the warhorses and reminders of the graceful wit of the smaller sonatas made (and left) a strong impression. The fourth album of his “Beethoven Odyssey” continues this happy trend… From a sheerly technical standpoint — quality of tone, clarity of articulation — Brawn reminds me most in these works of Daniel Barenboim. There’s an effortlessness to his playing that seems to grow with each “Odyssey” installment… [Sonata No.27] shrewdly plays to all the strengths Brawn demonstrated so well on the other pieces on the disc: textural clarity, heart, a deep understanding of the score’s structure, and beauty (of tone, articulation, and lyricism, especially). There’s a nice variety and flexibility in Brawn’s tempos, too… Brawn has both the technical and interpretive chops to make this music breathe and compel.”
Jonathan Blumhofer, ArtsFuse [July 2015]
[ + + + + ] “Brawn brings out the lighter, almost Mozartean elements of [Sonata] No. 9 to good effect, and contrasts them well with the more-expansive argument of No. 15, whose extended first movement is longer than the whole of No. 25... Brawn treats [Nos. 24 & 25] delicately and warmly, bringing out the gentleness of their themes and musical arguments... [In No. 27] Brawn – without overdoing the contrast between this work and the others – shows clearly the ways in which this sonata (anticipating the ones written afterwards) diverges from the approach of the others on this disc… Brawn’s “Beethoven Odyssey” sequence attempts, unlike most cycles of the composer’s sonatas, to find elements of commonality and contrast among the works and present them to highlight those elements. In the case of this volume, both the selections and the performances do so quite successfully.”
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [July 2015]
“Like the first three volumes [in Brawn's Odyssey series], the fourth is replete with dazzling technique, expert phrasing, and sensitive voicing. But these are not the things that keep me coming back time and time again to Brawn's recordings. It's the intellectual nature of his playing that has my ears begging for more. So often I find myself raising an eyebrow at one of Brawn's artistic decisions, only to be won over by his 'argument' as a whole — his overall conception of a work... [In the Op. 79] It's also worth noting that Brawn slows down just a touch as he enters the transition between themes. This willingness to flex tempi between sections is a vestige of historically informed performance practice, the revival of which is quite bold (at least on a modern instrument). But it is precisely these kinds of risks that make Brawn's recordings so exciting. To paraphrase the late Glenn Gould, don't record unless you have something new to say. James Brawn certainly does. And I urge you to partake in his historical project, which is nothing short of magical. Listen to the control, the musicianship, and the artistry. Masterful. Mesmerizing. Pure magic.”
Andrew Schartmann, Music & Vision [June 2015]
"The fourth volume of [Brawn's Odyssey] shows the seriousness of his interpretive approach. Brawn plays not to show what he thinks Beethoven is, but rather he plays Beethoven... The dynamics support the expression of Beethoven without denying its classical foundations, without depriving them of their sensitivity... here we are dealing with a pianist who gives the impression of the greatest spontaneity and yet everything under control... performances are thoughtful and well controlled, yet always spontaneous”
Remy Franck, Pizzicato [May 2015][translated from German]
“Every time I listen to a new album by British pianist James Brawn I remember again why I so look forward to his releases. He is one of the preeminent pianists of our day and, certainly, one of the handful of relatively young pianists destined for greatness... [when] he finishes his survey of all the sonatas, he will have no doubt completed one of the finest sets of Beethoven sonata recordings in the catalogue... The thing about Brawn that makes his playing stand out is that it's big and full without being big and flashy. That is, while Brawn is as virtuosic as any pianist you'll hear, his virtuosity always serves the music... he reminds me of a Brendel or Kovacevich in that his playing is thoughtful and purposeful as well as thoroughly entertaining... With Brawn, it's always about the music, not himself.”
John Puccio, Classical Candor [April 2015]
“I have been following James Brawn’s cycle of Beethoven’s piano sonatas with great enthusiasm. He seems so naturally attuned to these great works, combining fine musicianship with a superb technique that produces Beethoven playing of the highest order... I really cannot praise these performances too highly. This new cycle is set to become one of the finest in many years. I was so engrossed in these performances that I initially did not give a thought to the sound quality, surely a testament to the naturalness of the recording which is top notch. There are first rate notes from James Brawn and Linda Marianiello.”
Bruce Reader, The Classical Reviewer [April 2015]

The fourth volume of James Brawn’s Beethoven Odyssey contains a handful of piano sonatas spanning the years 1798 to 1814. Many musicians speak of the qualities and moods of various keys, and Brawn is no exception. He takes us on a journey through the various keys of the album, beginning with Sonata No. 9 in “the spirited key of E major”, followed by Sonata No.15 (‘Pastorale’) in the key of D major, which is also the key of Johann Sebastian Bach’s glorious and joyful Magnificat. Brawn tells us that Sonata No. 24, in “the divine key of F-sharp major”, was “Beethoven’s favourite sonata”. The next sonata, No. 25, moves up a half- step to “the exuberant key of G major”. With a return to E major in the final movement of Sonata No. 27, this set of five Beethoven sonatas come full circle to finish where it began.

James Brawn views the programme of volume 4 as “lyrical and life affirming”. He feels that these sonatas “exhibit Beethoven’s lighter, more positive nature”. Brawn freely admits that these sonatas contain “brief episodes of melancholia”. Yet he also believes that, through the notes on the page, Beethoven “shows us that it is possible to love every aspect of life, embracing and truly connecting with the struggle of the universal human condition”. How a given artist experiences music is, of course, coloured by his or her views about art and life. Nevertheless, Brawn makes a convincing argument by describing the character of the entire volume in Beethoven’s own words, “Mit Lebhaftigkeit und durchaus mit Empfindung und Ausdruck” (With liveliness and with feeling and expression throughout), which appear at the opening of Sonata No. 27.

Pianist James Brawn began his solo career at age 12 with an Australian debut in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25. Brawn traces his professional achievements to study with major teachers whose pedagogical lineage goes back to Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and Clara Schumann. Yet he has also forged his own musical path in solo and chamber music performance. Born in England in 1971, his musical life started in New Zealand, where he began piano lessons at age seven. He played Bartók on New Zealand television and won his first awards in Auckland. The following year his family moved to Australia, where he studied with Margaret Schofield, Ronald Farren-Price and Rita Reichman. He won major prizes at all of the Melbourne competitions and was also a recipient of the Hephzibah Menuhin Award. In 1987, Brawn reached the concerto final of the ABC Young Performers Awards, which led to concerts with the Adelaide and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras. Thanks to a grant from the Australia Arts Council, he was able to continue study with Rita Reichman in Philadelphia. In 1988, Brawn 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. Brawn won the Keyboard Final of the Royal Over-Seas League Music Competition at the Queen Elizabeth Hall when he was just 19. Solo recitals and chamber partnerships at music societies and festivals in the UK followed. From 1993-2001, Brawn taught piano and chamber music at King’s College and St. John’s College schools in Cambridge. He returned to Australia in 2001 to take up a piano teaching position at the highly regarded Scotch College, where he co-founded the bi-ennial Scotch College Piano Festival. He returned to the United Kingdom in 2010 and is currently based in the Cotswolds. Brawn regularly performs solo recitals in London at St. James’s Piccadilly, Blackheath Halls, Foundling Museum, The Forge, Royal Over-Seas League, and St. Olave Church. Among his significant engagements to date are 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. He has also studied chamber music with members of the Amadeus and Chilingirian Quartets. Recital performances have taken him to Paris, Sicily, Hong Kong, Brunei and New Orleans.

PIANO SONATA NO.9 IN E MAJOR, OP.14 NO.1 (1798-99)
I. Allegro
II. Allegretto & Maggiore
III. Rondo (Allegro comodo)

I. Allegro
II. Andante
III. Scherzo (Allegro vivace) & Trio
IV. Rondo (Allegro ma non troppo) - Più allegro quasi Presto

I. Adagio cantabile – Allegro ma non troppo
II. Allegro vivace

I. Presto alla tedesca
II. Andante
III. Vivace

I. Mit Lebhaftigkeit und durchaus mit Empfindung und Ausdruck
II. Nicht zu geschwind und sehr singbar vorzutragen

MSR Classics
Piano Sonatas Nos.28 & 29 JAMES BRAWN

Piano Sonatas Nos.13, 16, 18 & 22 JAMES BRAWN

Piano Sonatas Nos.30, 31 & 32 JAMES BRAWN

Piano Sonatas Nos.4, 11 & 12 JAMES BRAWN

Piano Sonatas Nos.5, 6, 7 & 10 JAMES BRAWN

The Time Traveller and His Muse JAMES BRAWN

Piano Sonatas Nos.2, 17 and 26 JAMES BRAWN


Piano Sonatas Nos.8 "Pathetique", 14 JAMES BRAWN