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The People United Will Never Be Defeated!

Vadym Kholodenko (piano) (Quartz)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

The People United Will Never Be Defeated!
Beethoven: 12 Variations in A, WoO71; Kurbatov: Three Last Minutes; Rzewski: The People United Will Never Be Defeated!
Vadym Kholodenko (piano)
Quartz QTZ2149   73:34 mins


It is difficult to consider Vadym Kholodenko’s protest album without bearing in mind the on-going struggles of the Ukrainian pianist’s homeland. But Kholodenko had, with painful prescience, selected and recorded this programme last year – before the Russian invasion. The central work, Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated! – 36 variations based on the song created by activist Sergio Ortega as an anthem for the Popular Unity coalition, which rallied for independence in Chile – naturally takes on a renewed poignance. The barnstorming theme is set out with pointed determination, only to immediately fall away in a shadow of itself. Kholodenko’s carefully contoured opener is followed by five variations that set out the intricacies of the music, which is further dissected and reimagined in five further cycles. The rhythmic and stylistic complexities of the final variations – such as the extended note repetition in Variation 38 – are neatly handled, although they perhaps lack the excitement of Marc-André Hamelin in his 1999 recording for Hyperion.

Rzewski’s 1975 work was commissioned by pianist Ursula Oppens to complement Beethoven’s ‘Diabelli’ Variations. This pairing has been repeated by pianists including Igor Levit (Sony). Kholodenko instead opts for Beethoven’s Twelve Variations on a Russian Dance, a slight yet enjoyable collection from the composer’s juvenilia. Kurbatov’s abrasive The Last Three Minutes concludes this impactful album.


Claire Jackson