Beethoven: 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
WORKS: 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120
PERFORMER: Daniel Barenboim (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-94810-2 DDD
Beethoven’s 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli was his last large-scale work for the piano, and the longest and greatest of his many sets of piano variations. Barenboim, in his third recording of the work, is very mindful of the fact and searches hard for expression. Sometimes, for instance in the Fughetta, he mistakes solicitous coaxing for profundity, though he treats Diabelli’s theme at the beginning with the brusque contempt which Beethoven expressed when he called it a ‘cobbler’s patch’. I don’t find much of Beethoven’s intended mockery in the way he plays the variation that immediately follows, but Donohoe doesn’t convey much humour there either. However, Donohoe does achieve tremendous feats of power and speed – some of the later variations are giddying – and his almost austere clarity in the Bach-like Largo before the big fugue gives the music greater nobility than Barenboim’s soulfulness. In addition, the coupling of the Op. 101 Sonata is a big attraction, with a confidently rugged second movement and a finale bursting with energy. Adrian Jack