Notes and Editorial Reviews
When composer and music publisher Antonio Diabelli invited a number of Viennese composers to write variations to a modest waltz theme of his own creation, no doubt he had little idea how the theme would be treated by Beethoven—and certainly not if he knew that Beethoven initially referred the waltz scornfully as a “Schusterfleck”—“cobbler’s patch”—for its bland repetitiveness. But Beethoven’s initial scorn somehow turned into creative frenzy, and he eventually ignored Diabelli’s request for a single variation, producing 33—nearly an hour’s worth of music. Diabelli published Beethoven’s masterful Op. 120 in 1823. The single variations of the remaining 49 composers—of which Melvin Chen performs examples by Hummel, Liszt, Schubert, Czerny,
Moscheles and Kalkbrenner on this recording—were published separately in 1824.
Melvin Chen, a native of Tennessee, has been recognized as a major young artist, with performances throughout the USA and abroad. Mr. Chen was selected to be a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s “Chamber Music Two” after completing one of the most brilliant and unusual academic careers in recent memory. Chen completed a doctorate in chemistry from Harvard University, and also holds a double master's degree from the Juilliard School in piano and violin, where he studied with Seymour Lipkin and Glenn Dicterow, respectively. Previously, Chen attended Yale University, receiving a B.S. in chemistry and physics. During his tenure at Yale, he studied with Boris Berman, Paul Kantor, and Ida Kavafian. Mr. Chen is currently on the piano faculty of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, where he also serves as associate director. He was previously a member of the piano faculty at the Yale School of Music.
Critic and annotator Keith Powers writes of “Melvin Chen’s adventurous reading of the Diabelli Variations (which) bears the mark of the great composer himself—fearless, eager for the extremes available in the score, yet rigorously true to the original.”
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