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“James Brawn: A Beethoven Odyssey Volume 5”
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonatas n° 5 in C minor, opus 10, n° 1, n° 6 in F major, opus 10, n° 2, n° 7 in D major, opus 10, n° 3, & n° 10 in G major, opus 14, n° 2

James Brawn (piano)
Recording: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England (April 20-22, 2017) – 71’12
MSR Classics MS 1469 – Booklet in English

Absorbed by a wealth of knowledge, James Brawn has wowed audiences with his strict and honorable interpretations of classical music since beginning piano at age seven. The intriguing aspect of the M. Braun is his pedagoguish approach to works by Liszt, Clara Schumann, Chopin and Beethoven. This is why listening to his keyboard characterization fills the airwaves with unblemished perfection.

The Herculean feat of recording Beethoven’s 32 sonatas, originating in 2013, has intermittently been side lined to complete other professional displays including James Brawn in Recital and James Brawn in Recital, Volume 2 in 2012 and 2014, respectively. This fifth volume of “A Beethoven Odyssey” now covers more than half of the sonata compositions. As in earlier CDs, n°s 5, 6, 7 and 10 also have their distinguished dimensions and emotional depth; the variations within aid in summarizing James Brawn’s multitudinous acuities.

James Brawn cleanly expounds on the use of Beethoven’s assigned dynamics. This fastidious practice of literal reading is why this young man excels in anything he performs. Glancing at a man with a dogmatic approach to musicianship, one isn’t surprised by his meticulous organization: Beethoven is presented in logical, numerical fashion. Perhaps a nugatory cognition, it actually signifies just how orderly and passionately precise M. Brawn chooses to exercise his artistry.

Many pockets of amazement are revealed inside. Citing an exemplary case in form is the Piano Sonata n° 6. This composition, with its layered challenges, strongly convinces the listener of James Brawn’s virtuosic nimbleness (“Allegro”), moody preserves of the “Menuetto” and the aggressive, fugue-like framework positioned inside the conclusive “Presto.” The aforementioned pounds away at deliberated effect and contrasted colouring, pulsating between left hand and right hand...this ultimate detail is both intoxicating and rhythmic. Touché.

One distinct thread is James Brawn’s strong affinity towards lively tempos; this master pianist has a lighter, jovial facet to his personality: feathery selections give him a bit wider flexibility and berth to accentuate frivolity without unwinding protocol boundaries. Such a stance can be heard in the “Presto” from the Piano Sonata n° 7, the “Allegro” (Piano Sonata n° 10) alongside the proficient legato runs, elfin skitters and staccato scampers from the closing “Scherzo” track.

Steinway piano technician Ulrich Gerhartz and piano tuner Graham Cooke help to brilliantly enliven M. Brawn’s magical delivery. Additionally, James Brawn’s forward outlining the substance of these four compositions is intelligent and well-written. Consistently rendered, via MSR Classics, “A Beethoven Odyssey” is a very worthy reflection of Ludwig van Beethoven’s sonatas.

Christie Grimstad




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