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Beethoven, Ludwig van - Diabelli Variationen
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Filmed from 29 July to 3 August 2000 at the Auditorio Stelio Molo, RTSI, Lugano.
The encounter between a masterwork and its consummate performer. The sheer size of the "Diabelli Variations" (overan hour of music) and the boldness of the work's conception make it one of the peaks of all piano literature. It parallels Bach's "Goldberg Variations" and is Beethoven's pianistic testament.
Piotr Anderszewski's reputation was established when he performed the "Diabelli Variations" at the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1990. Having refused offers to make a recording following the competition, he eventually agreed to record this dazzling version during the summer of 2000. Filmed in a unique way using cinematic techniques unheard-of for a classical music recital, this work is now available on DVD video for the first time. The performance is preceded by an illustrated sequence of conversations with the young pianist giving us his impassioned analysis of the work.
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Wenige Pianisten sind dem Werk wirklich gewachsen, verstehen es die vielfältigen Elemente mit teilweise harten Kontrasten als Einheit darzustellen. Piotr Anderszewski beherrscht dieses Kunststück und belegt in dieser formidablen Mehrkanal-Aufzeichnung sein Ausnahmetalent. Einmal mit jugendlicher Leichtigkeit, dann mit exzessiven, harten Anschlägen einen Kontrapunkt setzend, mal bedächtig, dann in Windeseile über die Klaviatur fegend ' immer zieht Anderszewskis Spiel in den Bann, immer gelingt es ihm den Spannungsbogen so zu gestalten, dass das Werk in seiner Gesamtheit erfahrbar ist. Eine würdige Einspielung.
Weiteres Highlight: Der Pianist beschreibt die Intentionen Beethovens und gibt faszinierende Einblicke in dessen Schaffensperiode. Auch hier wird der Center gefordert, Anderszewskis Stimme klingt kehlig, gleichzeitig fast melodisch tänzelnd. Nur neutral agierenden Lautsprechern gelingt der Spagat zwischen punktgenauer Analytik und beschwingter Kraft. Unbedingt die klanglich deutlich überlegene dts-spur nutzen. knut isberner
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Thirdly, Anderszewski gives extended commentary in English, and with all respect his English is not very good. He's extremely hard to understand. Piano virtuosity and English skills do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. But who cares, that is not the problem. The problem is, someone in the chain of command apparently decided it might hurt Anderszewski's feelings to have English subtitles displayed WHILE he is (supposedly) speaking English. Therefore they provide subtitles in every language OTHER than English. Why are we so fortunate? I would like to hold up as an example the great Dutch conductor Ton Koopman. He also chooses to speak English in his Bach Cantatas DVD (for what reason I do not know), and is equally if not even more God-awful, almost completely unintelligible. Thankfully, however, English subtitles are given for Koopman. So why not for this gentleman as well? It is nothing against Koopman or Anderszewski at all, quite the opposite--I DO want to hear and understand whatever they have to say!
Fourthly, when we finally decide to dispense with the menu, which is inevitable, and try to get to the Diabelli Variations using the good-old-fashioned Fast Forward method or Next-Next-Next on the remote ... not even that works satisfactorily. We don't know exactly what stop the music begins on. In fact, it begins not with a scene of the artist sitting at the piano with his hands poised over the keyboard, but rather, a view of the control room with a technician leaning over knobs and dials.
In short, there's so many problems getting the show on the road, it just kills the mood. The user could simply give up in disgust--as I did on three different occasions.
After so many attempts I did finally get the show going (the actual music, I mean). And yes, it was brilliant--no complaints about his playing at all. Stunningly brilliant. I might say the piano was too brassy in midrange, but it's a Steinway so I can't say much about that, and anyway, I'm pretty sure it's the actual sound of the piano, not the sound engineer's fault.
Alas, the DVD would get 5 stars if it were engineered decently.
Prior to the uninterrupted performance Anderszewski speaks well of this work in truly basic commonplace ideas,but excitement is a pre-requisite on this "voyage" as he says, that it is a 'transformation', the subtitle of the music, "these are not variations" he says "but transformations".A word I liked that he used was "tortured", it shows a perverse side to the great Master Signifier, that darkness is there someplace, our job is to discover it, and Anderszewski I don't think does, he seems to float above the work, the playing doesn't seem to come from a deep place,perhaps modernity has done this to what is very old music, as Hegel said someplace, anything that cannot be understood today, ceases to exist, and we can never know what Beethoven thought,what's the context of the work, well that it speaks forever? even if we enter this "phanthom" world that music transports one across borders conceptual boundaries and time. Anderszewski certainly also makes this piece of art his own, he has a third person like presence in his playing,there doesn't seem to be a "voice" inside directing the proceeedings, and perhaps this is not always the best approach; like he is really not even there, there is less a dimension of conviction,and in Beethoven that is difficult to eradicate.For all Beethoven represented was conviction of purpose to art,to music to the "IDEA" working it through, the state of "Becoming" I think Anderszewski likes the more "floating" schwebend", moments of this set, flying away. His tone is brittle,bright, strident and this at times could have been the piano timbre itself, where pains were takened to re-tune it and fix the gradations of eveness/uneven-ness in the timbre, "like taming a beast" said one technician. But there is a dimension of disquiet in the playing here, it is not the music, for I've heard Pollini,Rzewski,Brendel and Kempf play these "transformations".I think overall Anderszewski's playing lacks some part not all of the vision the piece is capable of suggesting, that's not his(Piotr's) fault, for such a large piece encompassing music, but something was lacking, obviously nothing technical,but imparting something "else" to the music not previously heard. When moments of power are required for example it seems to be only in the brightness of sound, not in gesture, for the gestures seem to be always the same.Then again balance is the magical key, for too much overbearing arrogant-ness doesn't work either.