Notes and Editorial Reviews
Rudolf Serkin's classic 1957 recording of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations sounds more vibrant and powerfully projected than ever in this remastered edition. Not only do the fine mono sonics improve upon the CBS Portrait reissue, but now each variation has its own track, whereas the earlier CD incarnation provided only one access point for the entire work. Serkin's angular pianism is alive to every startling subito dynamic, every harmonic surprise, every rhythmic quirk, plus every inflection that helps intensify the music's inner rhythmic workings and transitions between variations. Moreover, Serkin was at the height of his technical powers, although the blinding virtuosity he brings to Variations 25 and 28, for example, puts the music ahead
of the instrument. I even like the Vermont cricket chirping in gentle counterpoint to the later minor-key variations!
The unerring timing and variety of character Serkin brings to the Op. 119 Bagatelles remain a point of reference. And if Serkin's 1970 recording of the G minor Fantasy doesn't quite equal the dynamic scope and impulsive sweep of his 1947 mono version, it's still an impressive, concentrated piece of work all the same. You'll notice how Serkin atypically breaks his hands in the opening measures à la Paderewski, probably in keeping with the work's improvisatory nature. This disc belongs in every serious piano collection, in spite of André Tubeuf's frilly, pretentious, and utterly useless booklet notes.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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