One of the most grown-up review sites around

51,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

Yes we are selling
Acte Prealable again!

we also sell Skarbo

and Oboe Classics


with Eggebrecht we get all the excitement we can handle

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation

Vraiment magnifique!

Quite splendid

Winning performances

Mahler Symphony 8
a magnificent disc

a huge talent

A wonderful disc

Weinberg Symphonies 2 & 21
A handsome tribute!

Roth’s finest Mahler yet

Mahler 9 Blomstedt
Distinguished performance



Support us financially by purchasing this from

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Diabelli Variations, Op. 120
Martin Helmchen (piano)
rec. 2017, Reitstadl, Neumarkt, Germany
ALPHA 386 [55:03]

This recording is a revelation and, if not exactly the announcement, then certainly the confirmation of a major new voice in contemporary pianism. Martin Helmchen has already been turning heads among the piano cognoscenti, and this sensitive, hyper-intelligent account of the Diabellis confirms him as a mighty talent to watch.

There are two things that distinguish this performance as being special. Firstly, it’s the dynamism and kaleidoscopic quality of Helmchen’s pianism. Listen to the way he plays the theme, for example: it skips off the keyboard like the sound of a child with a new toy, full of boyish dynamism and skittish fun. Immediately, however, the portentous procession of the first variation comes across with imperial swagger but still a sense of lightness and forward movement. That chameleonic quality characterises the whole performance. Listen, for example, to the spidery delicacy of the second or tenth variations, or the neoclassical elegance of the third and fourth, not to mention the hobnail boots of the fifth and ninth. There is also a growing sense of mystery in the work, as though Helmchen is discovering the work anew at the same time as us. There is a sense of wonder, for example, in the meandering twelfth and the gentle nineteenth variations, and this helps to prepare the groundwork for the climax of the work, the concluding Fugue and Menuet, which here feels very much like the end of the journey because it is the consummation, the fulfilment of so much that has gone before. Importantly, we sense in that final pair of variations that Helmchen has been planting seeds throughout the performance previously that come to bear fruit in the ending: the delicacy and sense of wonderment, the gentleness and the boldness all seem to have pointing this way the whole time, and that makes the journey’s end all the more satisfying.

The second special thing, however, is Helmchen’s remarkably mature sense of structure. The booklet notes don’t specify how long the recording took, though it gives the impression of having been breathed out in one long span. Not an entirely continuous one, however. Helmchen seems to group his interpretation around the longer, slower variations (Nos. 14, 20 & 29, especially). Those slow variations are oases in the storm of activity, pauses for breath that allow both the pianist and the listener to regroup, and that gives the impression of an interpretation that has been conceived in definite paragraphs, with coherence and thought rather than just going for it and seeing what happens.

That adds to the impression that you are eavesdropping in on something intensely communicative and remarkably intelligent, as though it were a private performance without any of the limitations of the studio. It would be too trite to say that Helmchen’s youthfulness adds to the sense of the work’s lightness of touch, but there may be something in that because this performance is certainly not weighed down by any undue portent or any wisp of being intimidated by the work’s reputation.

The final moments of the work bring together all of the performance’s strengths because, after that remarkable fugue and menuet, the final phrase seems to flutter upwards rather than finishing on a decisive full stop. It’s wonderful, and another indication of a great performance by a great artist. Kovacevich, Brendel and Pollini will always have their place, of course, but this new kid on the block has just carved out a very special niche for himself.

Simon Thompson


We are currently offering in excess of 51,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger