András Schiff

Beethoven: Diabelli-Variationen

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ECM New Series is better known for its documentation of contemporary works, but the music of the past sometimes receives coverage when artists bring a new perspective to it. The Diabelli Variations, Op. 120; the Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111; and the Six Bagatelles, Op. 126, are among the most original and intellectually stimulating works Ludwig van Beethoven composed for the piano, and the sophisticated interpretations of András Schiff are especially worthwhile for their insights into authentic performance practice and reception. Here, Schiff gives the listener options between a relatively modern sounding version of the Diabelli Variations and a period interpretation, without favoring one or the other. On the first CD he plays the Sonata and the Diabelli Variations on a Bechstein piano from 1921, though with minimal pedaling and a restrained execution that allows every inner voice and subtle dynamic to be appreciated. While this piano is not as hard or bright sounding as a modern Steinway, it is familiar to modern ears and most listeners will readily accept it. On the second CD, Schiff plays the Diabelli Variations, along with the Six Bagatelles, on a smaller sounding Franz Brodmann fortepiano, an original instrument from around 1820, Beethoven's time period. While it sometimes sounds tinnier, the fortepiano is in wonderful condition, and by Schiff's own testimony, it "sounds fresher, bolder, and infinitely more subtle." This side-by-side demonstration allows comparisons between the two instruments, and to consider other differences. One need not choose one recording over the other, but Schiff's exceptional performances would certainly inform such a decision, if one had to be made.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Sonate No. 32 in c-Moll, Op. 111
1 08:54 Amazon
2 17:30 Amazon
Diabelli-Variationen, Op. 120
3 00:45 Amazon
4 01:38 Amazon
5 00:48 Amazon
6 01:20 Amazon
7 00:59 Amazon
8 00:58 Amazon
9 01:35 Amazon
10 01:08 Amazon
11 01:28 Amazon
12 01:52 Amazon
13 00:41 Amazon
14 01:09 Amazon
15 01:00 Amazon
16 01:11 Amazon
17 03:34 Amazon
18 00:37 Amazon
19 01:02 Amazon
20 01:03 Amazon
21 01:35 Amazon
22 00:58 Amazon
23 01:43 Amazon
24 01:09 Amazon
25 00:38 Amazon
26 00:55 Amazon
27 02:32 Amazon
28 00:52 Amazon
29 01:28 Amazon
30 01:01 Amazon
31 01:05 Amazon
32 01:09 Amazon
33 01:46 Amazon
34 04:31 Amazon
35 02:53 Amazon
36 04:12 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Diabelli-Variationen, Op. 120
1 00:48 Amazon
2 01:39 Amazon
3 00:54 Amazon
4 01:25 Amazon
5 01:01 Amazon
6 00:59 Amazon
7 01:40 Amazon
8 01:13 Amazon
9 01:31 Amazon
10 01:56 Amazon
11 00:44 Amazon
12 01:07 Amazon
13 01:05 Amazon
14 01:12 Amazon
15 03:31 Amazon
16 00:39 Amazon
17 01:02 Amazon
18 01:09 Amazon
19 01:40 Amazon
20 00:59 Amazon
21 01:49 Amazon
22 01:10 Amazon
23 00:43 Amazon
24 00:58 Amazon
25 02:34 Amazon
26 00:53 Amazon
27 01:29 Amazon
28 01:04 Amazon
29 01:12 Amazon
30 01:11 Amazon
31 01:57 Amazon
32 04:30 Amazon
33 03:01 Amazon
34 04:17 Amazon
Sechs Bagatellen, Op. 126
35 02:54 Amazon
36 02:56 Amazon
37 02:23 Amazon
38 03:44 Amazon
39 02:16 Amazon
40 04:01 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick