Beethoven - Diabelli Variations

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN - Diabelli Variations - Paul Lewis (Piano) - 3149020207123 - Released: May 2011 - Harmonia Mundi 902071

Pianist Paul Lewis jumps right into the action, and within the first four bars of the 33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120 by Beethoven, he establishes a strong rapport with the music and immediately exerts a dominance over its direction. The control over the subtle degrees of wide dynamic range during those opening bars alone is ample evidence of mastery over the music. Under his hands, the notes are simply a means to an end. Beethoven conceived this set of variations as far more than just a series of simple, repetitive alterations of the theme they originate from. And Lewis perceives this and projects it to the keyboard in a way that not only highlights each variation's magic, but also reinforces the thematic strand that runs through all of them. At this late stage in his life, Beethoven not only worked out musical variations on a theme, but also put down emotive variations on a theme. Variation 14 for example, is the emotional equivalent of night compared to the bright daylight of the opening waltz. Examples of such creative mastery and freedom are prevalent throughout this work, and Paul Lewis makes that crystal clear. The exuberance of variation 16, the melancholy and sadness in variation 29, the intellectual nature of the fugue in 32. All these different aspects within the music are front and centre here, with technique to match.

Paul Lewis has attracted well deserved attention and received many awards for his recordings of the Beethoven Sonatas and Concertos, and for good reasons. He doesn't just play the music, he lives it. Musical notes on a piece of paper mean nothing until they are played by someone and become sounds that communicate to us the animating force behind the composer. Paul Lewis is one of those great communicators.

Jean-Yves Duperron - May 2011