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Beethoven: Diabelli Variations / Battersby


Release Date: 08/16/2005 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557384-85   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Edmund Battersby
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 43 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews





Here is something quite different and totally fascinating. Edmund Battersby gives us two versions of Beethoven?s Diabelli Variations , one played on a 1997 replica of a Conrad Graf piano from 1825 (from the shop of R. J. Regier in Freeport, Maine), the other played on a 1976 Steinway D piano.


For the one or two readers of this journal who may not be in the know, let me very briefly recap the history of what many have come to regard as Beethoven?s greatest solo keyboard work. Circa 1819, music publisher and composer Anton Diabelli hatched the harebrained scheme Read more of inviting approximately 50 of Vienna?s noted composers to provide a single variation each on a trifling waltz theme he himself provided. The harebrained part wasn?t the pot-au-feu Diabelli proposed to cook up, but imagining that he could enlist Beethoven as just another one of the vegetable peelers. Beethoven, being Beethoven, turned Diabelli down flat. The thought, however, of Frederick II of Prussia and Bach?s A Musical Offering could not have escaped Beethoven. And so, determined to leave a similar legacy to posterity, he began work on his own set of variations on Diabelli?s sophomoric little tune, not completing the work until four years later in 1823. This makes the Diabelli Variations Beethoven?s final great solo keyboard utterance, post-dating the last piano sonata (op. 111), which was completed in 1822.


The variations range in mood from comic banality and biting parody to otherworldly states of stillness, grace, and benediction. But most of all, as was pointed out by Piotr Anderszewski in his Virgin Classics DVD, Beethoven?s methods of motivic deconstruction throughout the work not only mirror Bach?s techniques in his Goldberg Variations , but also point the way to Beethoven?s final string quartets that would follow.


Interpretively, even though the two performances come within a minute of each other, these are radically different approaches to the work, and that?s what makes this release so interesting. Whether Battersby?s fortepiano version sounds as it does because the instrument?s limitations necessitate it, or he plays it as he does because he believes this is how it would have been played and how it would have sounded in Beethoven?s day, I am not in a position to say. This much, however, is certain: in Battersby?s hands and on fortepiano, the Diabelli comes across as perfectly balanced, well regulated, and totally integrated, by which I mean it sounds all of a piece. In the modern piano version, the Diabelli is suddenly the bold and shocking thing we have long believed it to be. Dynamic and dramatic contrasts are violent, the sheer depth of resonance awesome, the tonal range, not just of the instrument but of Beethoven?s imagination, staggering. This is how most of us grew up hearing Beethoven and believing his music sounded?or ought to. But after hearing Battersby?s fortepiano version, I wonder. Much is gained on the modern piano, but something of the balance and integration is lost. There can be no denying that in the modern piano version the piece sounds somehow more of a ragtag jumble of disconnected episodes, but what a magnificent mélange it remains.


Arguments can be made that the keyboards Beethoven would have known in the late 1790s and early 1800s were not the same ones he would have known 20 years on. Technical and mechanical developments were swift, and clearly, the keyboard for which he imagined the ?Hammerklavier? in his mind?s inner ear was a different animal from that for which he conceived his earliest sonatas. It is, of course, fascinating to speculate on what Beethoven would have thought if confronted by a modern Steinway D. Yet, much as we might like to project our own verdict that he would have embraced it with an enthusiastic, ?yes, finally, this is just what I always wanted,? we cannot know that for sure. The fun, and the real value of this release, is that Battersby has once again caused us to question and to wonder. Very strongly recommended.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1.
Variations (33) for Piano on a Waltz by Diabelli in C major, Op. 120 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Edmund Battersby (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1819-1823; Vienna, Austria 

Sound Samples

33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Theme: Vivace
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 1: Alla Marcia, maestoso
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 2: Poco allegro
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 3: L'istesso tempo
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 4: Un poco piu vivace
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 5: Allegro vivace
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 6: Allegro ma non troppo e serioso
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 7: Un poco piu allegro
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 8: Poco vivace
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 9: Allegro pesante e risoluto
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 10: Presto
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 11: Allegretto
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 12: Un poco piu mosso
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 13: Vivace
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 14: Grave e maestoso
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 15: Presto scherzando
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 16: Allegro / Variation 17: -
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 18: Poco moderato
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 19: Presto
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 20: Andante
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 21: Allegro con brio
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 22: Allegro molto
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 23: Allegro assai
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 24: Fughetta - Andante
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 25: Allegro
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 26: [Piacevole]
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 27: Vivace
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 28: Allegro
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 29: Adagio ma non troppo
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 30: Andante, sempre cantabile
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 31: Largo, molto espressivo
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 32: Fuga - Allegro
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 33: Tempo di Menuetto, moderato
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Theme: Vivace
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 1: Alla Marcia, maestoso
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 2: Poco allegro
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 3: L'istesso tempo
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 4: Un poco piu vivace
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 5: Allegro vivace
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 6: Allegro ma non troppo e serioso
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 7: Un poco piu allegro
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 8: Poco vivace
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 9: Allegro pesante e risoluto
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 10: Presto
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 11: Allegretto
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 12: Un poco piu mosso
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 13: Vivace
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 14: Grave e maestoso
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 15: Presto scherzando
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 16: Allegro / Variation 17: --
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 18: Poco moderato
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 19: Presto
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 20: Andante
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 21: Allegro con brio
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 22: Allegro molto
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 23: Allegro assai
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 24: Fughetta - Andante
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 25: Allegro
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 26: [Piacevole]
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 27: Vivace
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 28: Allegro
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 29: Adagio ma non troppo
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 30: Andante, sempre cantabile
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 31: Largo, molto espressivo
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 32: Fuga - Allegro
33 Variations in C major on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120, "Diabelli Variations": Variation 33: Tempo di Menuetto, moderato

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