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There is a fine sense of swagger to the Meistersinger-ish Variation 1, more so perhaps on disc one [listen -- CD1 track 2, 0:55-1:23] than on disc two [listen -- CD2 track 2, 0:55-1:22], and he relishes the tricksy rhythmic interplay of no 2.

No 8 is genuinely dolce e teneramente, as Beethoven asks. No 9 brings out the attractive twang to the bass of the Graf copy [listen -- CD1 track 10, 1:04-1:36], though the Steinway matches it for clarity. In No 10 Battersby doesn't quite get down to a convincing pp, which robs the variation of some of its character, though he comes closer on Disc 2; but he gets full comic value out of the abrupt contrasts in No 13.

He moves from No 16 to no 17 without a break, emphasising their essential continuity, with the two hands exchanging basic material. He finds deep stillness in the remote No 20, then delights in shattering the atmosphere with the impetuous comic-opera spirit of no 21 (as Beethoven must surely have done, had he been able to perform the work). He does not feel totally in command of the running semiquavers (sixteenths) of No 23, which verges on the scramble in places in the Steinway performance.

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Copyright © 23 May 2007 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


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