Johann Wilhelm Wilms: The Piano Concertos Vol 1. Ronald Brautigam, fortepiano; Kölner Akademie / Michael Alexander Willens. © 2022 Deutschlandradio / BIS Records AB

CD Spotlight

A Delectable Programme

Piano concertos by Johann Wilhelm Wilms, heard by GERALD FENECH

'Brautigam's advocacy for these works borders on the obsessive, and his playing is not only full-blooded but captures the spirit of the age with immense fidelity.'


Johann Wilhelm Wilms (1772-1847) was born in Cologne only two years after, and some kilometres distant from, Beethoven. During his career, Wilms was a force to be reckoned with in Amsterdam, where he lived from the age of nineteen till the end of his life. Indeed, his music was actually performed more frequently than Beethoven's for a time, and his orchestral works were played in such musical centres as Leipzig.

Besides chamber music and solo sonatas, Wilms composed several symphonies and solo concertos for oboe, flute, clarinet, bassoon and cello, as well as seven piano concertos, two of which are lost. The extant five, which he wrote for his own use, were published between 1799 and 1820. He also performed regularly as soloist in concertos by other composers.

As the years went by, Wilms began to retreat from the public eye, either because of setbacks in his private life or because he was disillusioned with the superficial reaction of the Amsterdam audiences. By the time of his demise in 1847, he was remembered almost exclusively as the composer of the Dutch National Anthem, which the country used from 1815 till 1932, and for the Dutch premieres of the Mozart and Beethoven concertos.

In time for the 250th anniversary of Wilms' birth, Ronald Brautigam has edited the five surviving piano concertos and presents the first three on this Volume 1. All three concertos are in three movements and, as is to be expected, they are strongly influenced by Mozart's and Beethoven's pieces in the genre.

Listen — Wilms: Allegro (Concerto in E, Op 3)
(BIS-2504 track 1, 2:17-2:49) ℗ 2022 Deutschlandradio / BIS Records AB :

Not short on melodic invention, the quality of writing is gloriously fresh, and the two outer movements in each concerto are as lively as anyone would wish for.

Listen — Wilms: Rondo. Allegro (Concerto in E, Op 3)
(BIS-2504 track 3, 0:01-0:57) ℗ 2022 Deutschlandradio / BIS Records AB :

There is a depth of expression in all three and the music is consistently virtuosic, refined and harmonically ingenious. Brautigam's advocacy for these works borders on the obsessive, and his playing is not only full-blooded but captures the spirit of the age with immense fidelity.

Listen — Wilms: Poco Adagio (Concerto in C, Op 12)
(BIS-2504 track 5, 3:34-4:34) ℗ 2022 Deutschlandradio / BIS Records AB :

Like a true artist, Brautigam never resorts to self-gratification, but remains loyal to the composer's wishes all along. Michael Alexander Willens and his Kölner Akademie lend wholehearted support.

Listen — Wilms: Rondo alla Pollacca (Concerto in D, Op 26)
(BIS-2504 track 9, 7:25-8:21) ℗ 2022 Deutschlandradio / BIS Records AB :

This is great music-making that reveals that the Romantic piano concerto did not end with Mozart and Beethoven. Indeed, there were other less famous names who carried the torch into the twentieth century. Wilms was one of those links. A delectable programme in finely balanced sound and eye-catching annotations. Hopefully, Volume 2 is just round the corner.

Copyright © 29 August 2022 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta








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