Beethoven: Variations; Dances; Bagatelles

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Variations; Dances; Bagatelles
PERFORMER: Olli Mustonen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 452 206-2
Olli Mustonen has a very individual style of playing and indulges his idiosyncracies to the limit – some might think beyond it – in music chosen for the purpose. He revels in countless degrees of piano and staccato. You don’t have to play the opening and closing flourishes of Beethoven’s final Bagatelle as if the keys might electrocute you, but it’s quite effective, and Mustonen succeeds in creating a world of very private caprice. His trills and runs in the first Bagatelle are like gossamer, and in the fifth he may lack legato but compensates with delicacy.

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The sets of variations are all unpretentious and entertaining and tossed off here like confectionery, though with corresponding expertise. No mud on the rustics’ boots in the dances either. If you like your Beethoven gruff and rugged, even in his slightest pieces, this isn’t for you. But no one could call it dull. Adrian Jack