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In the Fughetta (Variation 24), Battersby's playing breathes an air of real Olympian calm, the una corda pedal that Beethoven asks for veiling the sound more noticeably on the Graf copy [listen -- CD1, track 24, 0:43-1:39] than on the Steinway [listen -- CD2, track 24, 0:41-1:36]. The running left-hand semiquavers in No 25 (surely a spinning-wheel number in all but name) have a fine sense of clarity, though they feel slightly heavier on Disc 2. The textures of Variation 27 are marginally less clear on Disc 2.

No 31 is beautifully shaped, with those great tendrils of rapid notes elegantly expressive. Battersby drives the Fugue (No 32) purposefully towards its startling climactic harmony, and brings out the eloquence beneath the apparently casual surface of the final minuet.

There's no word in the booklet on which edition of the score he's using, but in the second half of No 12 he plays an additional bar which is not in the one I was consulting, the Henle Verlag edition.

So how do the two performances compare, overall? I'm left with the impression that Battersby felt more able to relax and be himself on the Steinway. Was the disc one performance more of a workshop, the other more of a finished article? The booklet hints as much. Still, the Graf performance is rewarding on its own terms -- I shall certainly return to it, and it has the edge on its companion in a number of places -- and it's fascinating to hear the two side-by-side, comparison aided by the fact that each variation has a track to itself (except for 16 and 17).

Copyright © 23 May 2007 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK


Beethoven: Diabelli Variations

8.557384-85 DDD Stereo FIRST RELEASE (2 CDs) 102'31" 2005 Naxos Rights International Ltd

Edmund Battersby, piano and fortepiano

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Thirty-Three Variations on a Theme of Diabelli Op 120 - two complete performances


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