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Warum was truly 'to die over' and helped one to understand those suicidal Russians who had been pushed over the brink by its question of to be or not to be. Our grasp of reality was restored with Julian playfully snatching Grillen's chunky chords from the keyboard with hands born for homophony, with its Trio never losing the rhythm of its syncopated tied notes.

In der Nacht was a pre-Prokofiev vision fugitive, all breathless and abortive phrases struggling to express an inexpressible Angst in this miniature tempest in a sonata-form teapot. Nor, since the days of Horowitz, have I heard a Traumes Wirren so finespun and airborne -- quite living up to its title of Songe voilé -- with a whirligig velocity bordering on the vertiginous.

Julian Jacobson
Julian Jacobson

As one might expect of a pianist who has run the Marathon of the 32 Beethoven Sonatas not once but time and again (the last being under the auspices of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe in 2003), the 15 Variations with a Fugue Op 35, otherwise known as the 'Prometheus' or 'Eroica' Variations, called for and got playing in the grand manner (which is Jacobson's forte) in which one needed no instruction to recognise what revolutionary structural changes Beethoven had wrought, in the shape of sonata-form and -movements, in the shallow showpiece that variations had become and into which they were soon to relapse thanks to Beethoven's pupil Czerny. Jacobson literally made the dramatic silences speak as he did for the accumulating weight and density which could only find release in the subsequent 'Eroica' Symphony to which these Variations hold the key.

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Copyright © 2 December 2007 Malcolm Troup, London UK


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