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Diabelli Variations

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Initial post: 6 Jan 2012 18:21:32 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jan 2012 20:32:25 GMT
Mandryka says:
Out of the obscure French label Transart comes what is certainly the most interesting set of Diabelli variations since the mid 1980s , and just maybe the best Diabelli Variations tout court.

The performance comes from a set of 10 CDs - all Beethoven -- by the French pianist Georges Pludermacher. And all live. I've just begun to explore the sonatas - and what I have heard has been wonderful. But it's this live performance of the Diabelli Variations which makes me think that Pludermacher,along with maybe Andrea Lucchesini and Grigori Sokolov, is one of the greatest practising Beethoven pianist of our times. (Kristian Zimerman and Deszo Ranki and Zoltan Kocsis have performed very little Beethoven unfortunately.)

I for one have never heard such unity and sweep in a performance of the Diabellies, except in Arrau's 1985 record. And I have certainly never heard such élan. Pludermacher has a very refined sense of how to bring drama to the music - witness the wonderful pause after the slow Var 20. And most strikingly , he brings an astonishing palate of colours, and a huge dynamic range: this brings to each variation the quality of living poetry - poetry with emotional importance.

I knew Pludermacher was a great pianist from his Debussy and from his Schubert. This set of Diabelli Variations joins his D960 and Debussy Etudes as one of the finest of post war solo piano performances. I can't wait to explore the rest of his Beethoven.

Available on spotify in the UK. And very cheaply for download

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jan 2012 23:16:17 GMT
MacDoom says:

Hear, hear! What was amazing was the total timing of his Diabelli's - it's amazingly short, yet never feels rushed at all.

It is also worth looking into the gimmick that was built into the piano for these recordings: an extra pedal. Its function is, that when depressed, the function of the normal (sustain) pedal is modified. The dampers on the keys still being pressed are released. The effect is that resonance is allowed to sound on, but the melody being played is not obfuscated.

Did I hear it? Did I heck. I tried to concentrate, but was simply swept away every time by the magnificent Beethoven playing that was going on. Pedal-gimmicks, though very interesting, were in practive completely on the fringe, and no-one should worry in acquiring this set that it was done for effect only.

He also did an (almost) incomparable Mussorgsky Pictures set on TV once, which had me absolutely spell-bound. He's a great, but an unbelievably modest great.

Posted on 5 Jun 2012 01:13:35 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jun 2012 01:13:53 BDT
km.ord says:
Personally, I think Stephen Bishop Kovacevich's rendition on Philips, recorded in 1968 is the best. I've only heard a few different versions, Brendel, Richter (live), Frith and Pollini; but for me, that old '68 recording by Kovacevich never fails to satisfy. His tone in those days was rich and thick sounding, a little like Radu Lupu - a very distinctive sound. All of Kovacevich's EMI recordings on the South Bank Centre Steinway are reticent, and diffuse sounding.

Posted on 5 Jun 2012 02:00:52 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jun 2012 02:05:48 BDT
Edgar Self says:
Paul Lewis has a superbly vital, dynamic, and driving performance on a recent Harmonia Mundi CD. England can be proud of this still young ma, from Liverpool. His Beethoven sonata cycle, many Schubert sonatas, Liszt, chamber music, and only a little less so, Beethoven concertos are an impressive achievement for any any pianist, particularly one with no musical background who is superbly gifted, sensitive, his own man, and who happened to catch Alfred Brendel's ear.

Last time I counted, I had about a dozen versions of the Diabellis, way too many. I like Paul Lewis's best, although several others are very close ... Schnabel, Yudina, Anderszewski, Richter, Lifschitz, Demidenko, and who else?

I have all his recordings, inclding one he's ashamed of, and have seen him play now seven times, twice with orchestra.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jun 2012 03:31:15 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jun 2012 03:31:41 BDT
km.ord says:
I've been wanting to buy Paul Lewis's complete Beethoven Sonatas for a while, but have been put off by some of the horrendous, negative comments on amazon. I know I shouldn't take any notice; but sometimes amazon reviewers are a disease; and, as much as you know you should go with your own instincts; the dissenting reviewers have a knack of putting up a barrier which stops you from doing what comes naturally. I also recently looked at Lewis's Diabelli Variations, but have held back due to the cost at present.

Posted on 5 Jun 2012 08:39:58 BDT
MacDoom says:
Piso asks: 'and who else'?

Buchbinder! Available separately, but also, interestingly, as a double-CD with the entire Diabelli project on it, not just the Beethoven. It should come as no surprise that Beethoven is the most significant, but it's still very interesting to hear the rest, too. And the performance is grand.

Posted on 5 Jun 2012 09:13:02 BDT
Not everyone will agree, but I liked Geza Anda's version from (I think) the 1970s.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jun 2012 15:16:04 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jun 2012 16:42:54 BDT
Edgar Self says:
km.ord -- Maybe you can hear samples of Paul Lewis's "Diabellis" to see how they strike you. Many discriminating Amazon shoppers have bought it and like it, but they aren't the ones leaving all the comments. I really don't understand the opposition to Lewis, who is one of the best and most sensitive younger pianists .

Wouter MacDoom -- I agree. It's fun to hear all the variations on Diabelli's cobbler's patch by the composers other than Beethoven, all published by Diabelli in a first volume, with Beethoven occupying the second volume.

They include Schubert, the young Franz Liszt, and many other well-known composers of the day, and have been recorded several times.

Posted on 5 Jun 2012 19:14:33 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 5 Jun 2012 19:27:19 BDT]

Posted on 5 Jun 2012 19:27:12 BDT
I've always been parrtial to Serkin's recorded at the Marlboro Festival (Vermont, USA) during the part because crickets provide a delightful obbligato during the closing moments.

Posted on 5 Jun 2012 19:32:16 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jun 2012 19:32:24 BDT
I've been trying out a few versions on Spotify. Pollini's version seems quite accessible and with a decent enough sound. I haven't heard him humming or sniffing on it either, something he's prone to!

I'd be curious to know what people make of Andreas Staier's new version Beethoven: Diabelli Variations. He uses the autograph manuscript and plays on a period instrument. It's received excellent reviews thus far. Alas, Harmonia Mundi albums don't appear on Spotify in general, so I've only heard the usual 30 second snippets.

Any thoughts?

Posted on 6 Jun 2012 09:33:08 BDT
I would also like to hear opinions of Staier's new version. The reviews are excellent but one of them has severe reservations about the sound quality. The short excerpts I have listened to seem to back that up.
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