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Beethoven: Variations And Vignettes For Piano

Beethoven: Variations And Vignettes For Piano

9 Oct 2007
4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Format: Audio CD
Excellent recordings by Alfred Brendel for the Vox label dating from the years 1961-1963.

The most valuable aspect of the 3 disc set is that it contains 17 out of Beethoven's 20 sets of piano variations - the only missing ones being the Dressler Variations WoO 63 (1782 - and Beethoven's earliest known surviving composition), the Haibal Variations WoO 68 and the formidable Diabelli Variations Op. 120. Most of these sets were written in the years 1796-1802 when Beethoven was establishing his style and reputation. They are all eminently attractive and tuneful, based on airs from popular operas, and some were clearly written to show Beethoven's prowess at the piano.

As the informative sleeve notes suggest Beethoven gradually moves away from seeing the variations as essentially diverting entertainments and starts to explore the profounder aspects of variation technique - hence his decision in the 6 Variations on an Original Theme in G major to give it an opus number (op. 34) and 'include them in [my] great compositions'. The splendid Eroica Variations Op. 35 (with its fugal finale) and the 32 Variations on an Original Theme in C minor WoO 80 point the way to the achievements of the Diabelli Variations and the late piano sonatas where Beethoven integrated variation form and sonata form with dazzling originality.

The discs also include the Piano Sonatas Nos. 4 and 20, the Rondo in G Op. 51 No. 2, the charming Polonaise Op. 89, and some bagatelles.

Brendel (of course) plays this all marvellously and the sound is good with only minimal hiss to show the age of the recordings. An important collection that adds to one's knowledge of Beethoven's development to put side by side with the sonatas.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
geat but not be be played all at one session, a set of discs to be dipped into.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars 9 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure! Buy it! 23 May 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I can't believe no one has reviewed this album. These discs are a complete and continual joy! The sound is brilliant beyond compare, and what Brendel gets out of the piano is amazing--an incredible range of moods and dynamics. I also own the variations in a (much more expensive) set by Buchbinder, and they seem cold and stiff compared to these. The longer I live the more I admire Beethoven, and these discs add immensely to my awe at his genius.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure! Buy it! 23 May 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I can't believe no one has reviewed this album. These discs are a complete and continual joy! The sound is brilliant beyond compare, and what Brendel gets out of the piano is amazing--an incredible range of moods and dynamics. I also own the variations in a (much more expensive) set by Buchbinder, and they seem cold and stiff compared to these. The longer I live the more I admire Beethoven, and these discs add immensely to my awe at his genius.
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive low cost, reliable collection of Beethoven minor works for piano 2 Mar. 2013
By oleaginous - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Alfred Brendel provides a tour of L. v. Beethoven's variations and bagatelles. Useful as a survey, as it includes many uncommon works.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1) BEETHOVEN, 2) played by BRENDEL, BUT ... 16 Mar. 2014
By (((Marco Buendia))) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
there are some major omissions here, e.g. the Diabelli Variations are not on this 3-CD set. "WTF", as they say. And quite a lot of other stuff isn't here. IT IS ON:

the Brilliant Classics five CD set.

To my knowledge, that set includes all of Beethoven's solo-piano music, recorded by the (IMHO) incomparable Alfred Brendel, that isn't in the standard run of numbered sonatas. That run, of course, is also available in a twelve CD set recorded by Brendel, on Decca.

Fabulous music, in performances that are unexcelled, but why settle for some when you can get all.

*** A caveat for stereo-nerds: these recordings were done over a long series of years, and people who are bothered by sound that isn't Robert Fripp's idea of the very best state of the art will gripe.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Young Brendel Shines with Beethoven's Variations & Vignettes 24 Nov. 2013
By J. M. Bryant - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I've owned this magnificent 3 cd set for more than twenty years now, and it never ceases to provide immense listening pleasure. Digitally remastered from the analog tapes for recording sessions dating from the early 1960s, these pieces capture a young Alfred Brendel (b.1931) in assured and joyful command of a great many neglected gems from the expansive Beethoven repertoire. The sound quality is consistently excellent, but it is Brendel's exceptionally poised pianism that thrills from the first note to the last. No affectations, no theatrics, just sustained musical integrity, beautiful sonorities, and technical precision throughout. Even for the lighter pieces, such as the 6 Ecossaises or the 9 Variations on Paisiello's Aria "Quant è Più Bello," Brendel succeeds in communicating Beethoven's unsurpassed genius in the piano medium. For this particular genre, the variations & vignettes, the Brendel Vox collection remains at the summit of musical accomplishment.

P.S. As has been noted, a few of Beethoven's variations are not included, most notably the massive Diabelli (recorded separately by Brendel elsewhere); but with each disk running to well over 70 minutes, no one purchasing this monumental and masterful collection will have any reason to feel short-changed, especially considering the bargain price at which it is being offered. It would be a steal at triple the price!
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