Willem's playing of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations is nothing short of miraculous! Apparently, after recording all the sonatas and concertos he needed some persuading to record and lay down his own performance of this work. Many pianists are daunted by these works and rightly so: excruciating difficulties litter the score and only the best can come away having scaled its heights. These variations are known as the Everest of piano music and Willems ascends the challenges with great grace and beautifully nuanced angles. Raging storms of miniature-sized inventions, when originally published Beethoven referred to Bach's own magnum opus in this genre, the great Golberg Variations, thus announcing his ambition in this field. The comparison is not moot: the achievement here, whilst not of the same dimensions as Bach's work is nonetheless a series of masterpieces!
The only other version I have heard and liked is by Charles Rosen which is not readily available. So, is Willems a match for this master? A resounding yes has to be the answer! His playing is just sublime and the famous piano he has adopted as his voice for Beethoven in this series is just amazing. A rumbling chaos rests at the foot of its sound and achieves an utterly delightful range it in piano and forte.
This recording just shows that both Beethoven and Willems are in their element when the music is at its toughest! Certainly one of Beethoven's most noble creations, enjoy this set of Diabelli's with the piano's most lyrical contemporary tone poet who manages to illuminates this work from the inside to gradually separate the wheat from the chaff to deposit Beethoven's gold right into our lap!