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Beethoven: Complete Variations etc (Tiberghien)

Cédric Tiberghien (piano) (Harmonia Mundi)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
HMM90243334_Beethoven

Beethoven
Complete Variations; plus Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 11 in A, K331 ‘Alla Turca’; R Schumann: Variations on a theme by Beethoven; Webern: Variations, Op. 27
Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
Harmonia Mundi HMM902433.34   141:19 mins (2 discs)

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This double-disc release is the first in a series which Cédric Tiberghien conceives as a voyage through the world of the variation, from Sweelinck to Kurtág. Beethoven will be the cornerstone, but two of the non-Beethoven elements in Volume 1 seem oddly chosen. Mozart’s ‘Alla Turca’ Sonata, K331 seems to have no discernible bearing on the Beethoven works between which it is sandwiched, nor does the arcane harmonic logic of Webern’s six-minute Op. 27 have any obvious purpose in its place in the programme. On the other hand, the Schumann works which Tiberghien has included do help to begin some sort of argument, though precisely what sort will only become clear as the rest of the series unfolds.

In every other respect, however, this offers a feast of surprises, served up with Tiberghien’s trademark imagination and refinement of sound. Schumann’s Etudes in variation form on a theme by Beethoven are rarely heard, and their provenance is problematic – unfinished, and put together from three manuscripts – but the pianistic invention is very much Schumann’s own, and it looks forward to Rachmaninov. Beethoven’s Variations on ‘Kind, willst du ruhig schlafen’ are equally rarely heard, as are his Variations on ‘Tändeln und Scherzen’: both deserve a place in the regular repertoire.

Chief among this collection’s delights are Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ variations, here given an unusually introspective reading, and the lovely Variations, Op. 34 which expand revealingly under Tiberghien’s fingers. Meanwhile Variations on ‘Nel cor più non mi sento’show what interest Beethoven could extract, Diabelli-wise, from an unpromising little tune. The pianist ends this selection with Schumann’s Ghost Variations, to which he brings both emotional morbidity and tensile strength.

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Michael Church