Review: Andras Schiff, Diabelli Variations (ECM)


Something of a beauty contest is likely to ensue when the same work is played on two different instruments, and there is a surprising overall winner when Andras Schiff performs Beethoven’s Diabelli variations on both a 1921 Bechstein and an 1820 Austrian fortepiano.

When Anton Diabelli invited every composer in Vienna to write a variation on his own musical theme, Beethoven entered into the game with gusto. This kaleidoscope of skits and sketches, some less than a minute long, proves more colourful and textural on the older instrument, with all its ticks, thuds and bell-like sweetness. The shiny Bechstein polishes off the Sonata No 32 too, while the fortepiano scampers through the Six Bagatelles.