Piano Concertos, Vol. 1: Op. 3, 12 & 26
Ronald Brautigam (piano); Cologne Academy/Michael Alexander Willens
BIS BIS-2504 (CD/SACD) 82:28 min
Johann Wilhelm Wilms (1772-1847) was German by birth, but lived most of his life in Amsterdam, where he composed the national anthem which served in the Netherlands from 1815 to 1932. He gave the Dutch premieres of the concertos of Mozart and Beethoven, whose influence is evident, especially Mozart in E major, with its opening Mannheim flare and clear orchestration. Ronald Brautigam’s instrument – a modern copy, not identified in the notes – has a rounder sound than many fortepianos and is well suited to music.
Is it interesting enough to be revived? A mixed yes: it’s never less than expertly written for soloist and orchestra, but the reliance on sequence sometimes feels like it’s going through the motions. In the later concertos there are more harmonic twists, and the melodic lines and instrumental textures – especially in the wind – have greater individuality. You can hear Wilms’ indebtedness to Beethoven more clearly here, especially in the slow movements, where there is balance and elegance in C major, and in the dynamism Rondo alla Polacca of D major. Brautigam and Willens clearly believe in this music: they collaborated on the editions used, and create performances of lightness and transparency, matched by the clarity of the recording.