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Culture Watch: Beethoven 'Diabelli' Variations

June 22, 2011 | 10:00 am

Diabelli Beethoven: “Diabelli” Variations

Paul Lewis, piano (Harmonia Mundi)

In a follow-up to his refreshing recordings of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas and five piano concertos, the British pianist Paul Lewis has now turned to Beethoven’s other great piano score –- the 33 variations on a waltz by one Anton von Diabelli. And not a minute too soon.

After the lumbering sentimentalizing of Beethoven and his score in Moisés Kaufman’s “33 Variations” at the Ahmanson Theatre last winter, Lewis’ light touch is the perfect antidote to schmaltz. His sparkling tone reminds us that Beethoven was inspired by a dance tune in a popular style. Even the most intense variations never lose their lilt. Twyla Tharp understood that when she choreographed the “Diabelli.” So does Lewis.

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-- Mark Swed

 

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