WORKS: Thirty-Three Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120; Six Variations on an Original Theme in F, Op. 34
PERFORMER: Alexandre Rabinovitch (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-95572-2 DDD
Alexandre Rabinovitch’s way with the Diabelli Variations is highly capricious, not recommended if it’s to be your only recording of the work, but very possibly of interest to sophisticated collectors. He is best in the light and rapid variations, where he is less tempted to take licence with rhythm and tempo. Some of the other variations would be beautiful if only he were not so wayward, for he can shade his tone with great subtlety and offers some enticing glimpses of something beyond. Too many of the rest are broken up by contrived fluctuations: he seems to scorn anything forthright or simple. You may like to be teased in this way, but one loses sight of Beethoven’s directness and sincerity.
In Op. 34, Rabinovitch plays the theme and first variation in a vein of fastidious musing, to which he returns after taking the next four variations more straightforwardly. On its own, this relatively modest set of variations would make quite an enchanting impression, but taking Rabinovitch’s performance of the Diabelli Variations into consideration, his sophistication and delicacy seem like an evasion of the real issues. The recorded sound is a bit thin. Adrian Jack