Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Diabelli Variations Op. 120
Piotr Anderszewski (piano)
VIRGIN CLASSICS 7243 5
45468 2 2
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
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.