Comparison Versions: Rubsam/Naxos, Rangell/Dorian, Tureck/Philips
Piotr Anderszewski has made quite a reputation
for himself in recent years, and he is now regarded as one of
the best young pianists in the world. I first became familiar
with his artistry through an excellent Harmonia Mundi disc containing
Bach’s French Overture BWV 831 and the French Suite BWV 816. Since
that time, he has recorded the Brahms Violin Sonatas with Viktoria
Mullova for Philips and a disc of Mozart Piano Concertos for Virgin
As fine as the above recordings are, what really
turned me on to Anderszewski was his recording of Beethoven’s
Diabelli Variations, also for Virgin Classics. To say that he
is outstanding in this work is putting it mildly. Anderszewski
seems to have examined every musical cell in terms of putting
across his unique perception of Beethoven’s music and psychology.
As a result, each variation is a surprise and either revelatory,
compelling, or delightful. I consider the performance the best
modern recording of the Diabelli Variations on record.
With the above in mind, I expected more in the
way of revelation from this new recording. Although the performances
are certainly of high quality, I detect little of the creativity
and insight that he supplied the Diabelli Variations.
He gives the 1st Partita a fairly
mainstream reading. He is slower than the norm in the Praeludium
and the Sarabande, but others including Wolfgang Rubsam are even
slower. The fast movements are very brisk, crisp and driven with
excitement. The slow movements, particularly the Sarabande, are
an exceptional blend of comfort and melancholy. Intervals are
well chosen throughout, and inflections/accenting could hardly
be better. In the 3rd Partita, the same comments generally
apply although Anderszewski is even more mainstream concerning
tempo than he is in the 1st Partita.
Only in the 6th Partita does Anderszewski
show any inclination to reshape our customary opinions of the
music, and he does so through some unique rhythmic patterns. Anderszewski’s
greater originality in the 6th Partita might explain
why it is programmed first on the disc.
Overall, I most like the Gigues where he is totally
invigorating and demonstrative. Some listeners prefer them played
slower and with substantial nuance, but I find that the perfect
way to play them is to bear down and ‘let it rip.’
In conclusion, I am disappointed that Anderszewski
rarely stakes out new territory in his interpretations of these
three works. Those of you familiar with the highly individualized
accounts from Tureck, Rangell and Rubsam will not find his performances
My expectations were likely too high based on
his Diabelli Variations disc. No artist can come up with revelatory
interpretations on a constant basis, and Anderszewski is human
like the rest of us. His performances are excellent but I’ll take
the Rubsam recordings on Naxos any day of the week; Rubsam also
enjoys the advantageous Naxos price. He is given a better soundstage
than Rubsam, but that is the only aspect of the production where
he is to be preferred.
I recommend Anderszewski’s newest recording but
firmly believe it could have been much better. At this point,
I wait with keen anticipation to hear what he will do with his
next few releases.