Mendelssohn: Prelude & Fugue; Brahms: 4 Piano Pieces; Beethoven: Diabelli Variations

Rudolf Serkin

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Mendelssohn: Prelude & Fugue; Brahms: 4 Piano Pieces; Beethoven: Diabelli Variations Review

by James Leonard

In 2007, live recordings of Rudolf Serkin performing Beethoven's Diabelli Variations began surfacing around the world. Dedicated fans of the pianist had long revered his 1957 Marlboro Festival recording of the work issued on Columbia, but in 2007, America's Music & Arts label issued his 1954 Prades Festival recording, and then, only a few months later, England's BBC Music label issued this 1969 Royal Festival Hall recording. Although the three performances are not all that different, dedicated fans of the pianist will want to hear all of them because they're all outstanding. Both the 1954 and the 1957 performances are slightly better played than this 1969 account, but none of them lack energy and virtuosity. And while the 1969 performance may not have quite the same level of humor as the 1954, much less the 1957, it has perhaps more poetry and, in the Largo, molto expressivo, more tragedy than the earlier accounts. For listeners looking for only one Serkin Diabelli, the safest choice may still be the 1957 Columbia: coupled with Beethoven's Bagatelles, Op. 119, and his Fantasia, Op. 77, it has perhaps the best sound and the most interesting disc-mates. The 1954 Music & Arts has a splendid performance of Beethoven's Sonata, Op. 109, but far rougher sound. This 1969 BBC Music disc has reasonable sound, perhaps a bit distant but still honest, and comes coupled with a propulsive account of Mendelssohn's Prelude and Fugue, Op. 35/1, and a magisterial account of Brahms' Four Piano Pieces, Op. 119, both from 1975.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Rudolf Serkin 09:48 Amazon
Pieces (4) for piano, Op. 119
2 Rudolf Serkin 04:48 Amazon
3 Rudolf Serkin 04:28 Amazon
4 Rudolf Serkin 01:37 Amazon
5 Rudolf Serkin 05:25 Amazon
Variations (33) on a waltz by Diabelli, for piano in C major ("Diabelli Variations"), Op. 120
6 Rudolf Serkin 01:00 Amazon
7 Rudolf Serkin 01:52 Amazon
8 Rudolf Serkin 00:57 Amazon
9 Rudolf Serkin 01:25 Amazon
10 Rudolf Serkin 01:03 Amazon
11 Rudolf Serkin 00:58 Amazon
12 Rudolf Serkin 02:03 Amazon
13 Rudolf Serkin 01:18 Amazon
14 Rudolf Serkin 01:40 Amazon
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16 Rudolf Serkin 00:38 Amazon
17 Rudolf Serkin 01:04 Amazon
18 Rudolf Serkin 00:53 Amazon
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20 Rudolf Serkin 02:29 Amazon
21 Rudolf Serkin 00:35 Amazon
22 Rudolf Serkin 01:11 Amazon
23 Rudolf Serkin 01:16 Amazon
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25 Rudolf Serkin 00:51 Amazon
26 Rudolf Serkin 01:56 Amazon
27 Rudolf Serkin 01:17 Amazon
28 Rudolf Serkin 00:53 Amazon
29 Rudolf Serkin 00:54 Amazon
30 Rudolf Serkin 02:26 Amazon
31 Rudolf Serkin 00:52 Amazon
32 Rudolf Serkin 01:15 Amazon
33 Rudolf Serkin 00:57 Amazon
34 Rudolf Serkin 01:07 Amazon
35 Rudolf Serkin 01:14 Amazon
36 Rudolf Serkin 01:53 Amazon
37 Rudolf Serkin 04:22 Amazon
38 Rudolf Serkin 03:11 Amazon
39 Rudolf Serkin 04:13 Amazon
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