Beethoven: Diabelli Variations

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Andrew Farach-Colton
Maurizio Pollini presented his impressive credentials as a Beethovenian back in 1978 with a stunning set of the late piano sonatas recently reissued on DG's Originals series. It took another two decades, but Pollini has finally recorded Beethoven's other late masterpiece for the piano: the 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120. It was worth the wait. This is a long and treacherous piece: Each variation is so characterful that it's tempting to play them as a series of fanciful miniatures rather than a unified whole. But Pollini achieves a feeling of inevitability, a sense that each variation leads inexorably to the next. And yet, there's an ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Andrew Farach-Colton
Maurizio Pollini presented his impressive credentials as a Beethovenian back in 1978 with a stunning set of the late piano sonatas recently reissued on DG's Originals series. It took another two decades, but Pollini has finally recorded Beethoven's other late masterpiece for the piano: the 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120. It was worth the wait. This is a long and treacherous piece: Each variation is so characterful that it's tempting to play them as a series of fanciful miniatures rather than a unified whole. But Pollini achieves a feeling of inevitability, a sense that each variation leads inexorably to the next. And yet, there's an abundance of detail to savor, too: the giddy excitement of Variation 5, the much-ado-about-nothing clangor of Variation 13, the cryptic calm of Variation 20, the sheer virtuosic perfection of Variation 20, the intensely expressive melodic contortions of Variation 31, and the unruffled but heartrending grace of the final variation. Pollini is clearly possessed by the music from start to finish; you can occasionally even hear him humming along, à la Glenn Gould. All in all, this is a major accomplishment -- joining the ranks of classic recordings by Alfred Brendel, Stephen Kovacevich, Artur Schnabel, and Rudolf Serkin -- and the most important addition to Pollini's discography in many years.
All Music Guide - James Leonard
Pollini's recording of Beethoven's final masterpiece for the piano excels even in comparison with the familiar greats. Schnabel? His musical depth can't be denied, but his pianistic technique is lacking. Brendel? His recordings -- one early, one late -- are technically superb, but the earlier emphasizes the virtuoso element at the expense of the humanity and the latter wants humor and pathos. Richter? His three recordings are undeniably great, but all are live and all have grievous flaws. And Arrau? He was just too old to rise to the work's technical challenges. This isn't to say that Pollini's is the best by default. True, his always astounding technique is at its peak. This means, essentially, that he makes no mistakes: no slipped notes, no flawed pedaling. Most of all, he plays the work the way Beethoven wrote it something apparently beyond most pianists -- he finds musical depth through intellectually rigorous argument. But what impresseses most about Pollini's "Diabelli Variations" is his humanity. Some critics have said that Pollini's tremendous technique and prodigious intelligence have inhibited his emotional intensity, citing his Chopin as an example. But listen to his brusque treatment of Diabelli's dumb waltz theme. Listen to his humor in the variation which combines Diabelli's theme with Leporello's opening aria from "Don Giovanni." Listen to the passion of the final minor key variation. Listen to the exhilarating final fugue. And listen especially to the wistful return of the Diabelli Waltz. Then try to argue that Pollini lacks emotional intensity and that his is not the best set of "Diabelli Variations."
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/12/2000
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • UPC: 028945964522
  • Catalog Number: 459645
  • Sales rank: 72,707

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Maurizio Pollini Primary Artist
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