Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Diabelli Variations Op. 120
Piotr Anderszewski (piano)
Recorded 2000
VIRGIN CLASSICS 7243 5 45468 2 2 [63.10]
 £10.99 AmazonUK  £13.99  AmazonUS  Amazon recommendations

In 1819 Antonio Diabelli jotted down a theme (a little waltz in Danube rustic style) which he sent to his composer friends and acquaintances, among them Schubert, Kalkbrenner, Czerny, Hummel, the eight year-old Liszt, and Beethoven. The idea was one variation from each (fifty composers responded) and a veritable patchwork quilt of styles and ability anticipated. The irascible Beethoven, whose own pupil and patron Archduke Rudolf had coincidentally just produced a set of forty variations on a song Beethoven had himself published, and then submitted to his teacher, was not to be outdone by this flurry of activity. But what he did was to produce, over four years (during which time the Ninth symphony was also taking shape) a set of thirty-three variations which almost contemptuously ignore the theme whilst retaining Diabelli's harmonic structure. Even Leporello from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni makes an appearance with a quotation from the aria in which he complains at meagre financial rewards for working for his master. The kaleidoscope of mood, style, and colour evoked by this hour-long work (which Beethoven would hardly have expected to be more than dipped into rather than performed as an entity) is its most remarkable feature.

Anderszewski, who made headlines in the 1990 Leeds Piano Competition by walking off the platform half way through his semi-final performance of Webern's Variations Op.27 (disenchanted by his own playing), went on to acclaim a year later with a Wigmore Hall debut. He evidently has no need to be dissatisfied with his interpretation or playing on this disc of a work he seems to have made his own, and which he recorded while making a documentary film predictably enough entitled Piotr Anderszewski plays the Diabelli Variations. One looks forward to future records of Bach and the Mozart piano concertos which he will direct from the keyboard.

Christopher Fifield

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board.  Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.This is the only part of MusicWeb for which you will have to register.

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers:
Amazon recommendations