fascinating idea – two performances of the Diabelli Variations,
one on a modern grand piano, the other on a 1997 replica
of an 1825 Conrad Graf fortepiano.
Battersby's playing is new to me, and he is clearly a musical
interpreter. Whether he is equipped for this particular
Everest is another matter; presumably it is no accident
that there is a picture of a mountain on the front cover
of the product!
how musicologically sound this venture can be is open to
debate. As will be seen from my comments the fortepiano
account is the most successful – on this occasion. But time
and time again there was the niggling feeling that this
is simply because Battersby feels more comfortable on that
instrument than on a concert grand, and the preferences
could easily be reversed if another keyboardist were playing
fortepiano is recorded closely – this is not a criticism,
more a statement that it makes the experience rather involving.
As a performance, at times Battersby could be more playful
(Variation 2) or more assured (the trill-dominated Variation
6), but this is clearly a well thought-through interpretation.
The acciaccaturas of Variation 9 work better on the fortepiano
than on the piano; more shocking, if you will. Battersby
has the musical wherewithal to project Variation 14 (Grave
e maestoso) as the axis on which the entire variation set
turns. Occasionally he over-emphasises contrasts, but to
good effect: the dark Variation 20 brings out the light
of the ensuing one. Only Variation 10 (Presto) is surely
miscalculated, sounding quite funny, like a silent-film
modern grand 'alternative' is interesting. Variation 18,
for example (Poco moderato) proves conclusively that Battersby
cannot quite enter into that late Beethovenian expanded
mode of thought; his Variation 31 is better in this respect.
On a recording level, a touch more depth of bass would have
can be literal, and this matters especially in Variation
20; so successfully shaded on fortepiano. Repeated notes
can sound awkward now, and the acciaccaturas of Variation
9 emerge as softened. The performance starts off as if Battersby
is going to make the most of the instrument's capabilities
– the Theme is less jolly, with explosive sforzandi.
is a laudable enterprise, and the notes by Lia M .Jensen,
affiliated to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, set the
seal on its musicological integrity. The booklet even includes
a select bibliography. A set that certainly asks questions.