Variations on a Waltz: The Diabelli Project

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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In early 1819, the well-known composer and music publisher Anton Diabelli (1781-1858), sent a 32-bar waltz to the most reputable composers of the Austrian Empire, together with an invitation to submit their variations for publication as a collaborative collection.

Among those who responded to the call were Czerny, Hummel, Moscheles, Schubert, and the eleven-year-old Franz Liszt, and from their contributions Diabelli was able to assemble a set of 50 Variations on his theme.

We only know for sure of one composer who explicitly declined Diabelli’s invitation to collaborate: Beethoven. It remains unclear why he did not want to participate directly, but he nevertheless composed his own monumental set of 33 Variations, not directly for Diabelli but exploring alternative avenues of publication.

Beethoven’s 33 Variations on a Waltz Op.120 quickly established itself not only as one of his most important keyboard works, but one of the pinnacle summits of the entire classical piano repertoire, entirely overshadowing the rest of the project.

Delivered for the recent Beethoven 250 anniversary year, Mario Aschauer’s landmark new scholarly performing edition of the Beethoven Diabelli Variations is an essential score for serious students of the work, published by Bärenreiter, BA 9657.

Perhaps even more interestingly however, Bärenreiter have also brought us their edition BA 9656, which includes Beethoven’s masterpiece together with Aschauer’s new edition of the 50 Variations on a Waltz composed by his contemporaries in response to Diabelli’s call.

Let’s take a closer look at this ambitious and exciting publication…

Continue reading Variations on a Waltz: The Diabelli Project

Schubert: The Late Sonatas

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Back in June 2018 I reviewed Bärenreiter’s then new issue of Schubert’s G major Fantasy Sonata, concluding:

“I am grateful that this beautifully presented edition of the Fantasy Sonata has given me a fresh opportunity to explore such a magnificent work – and with this Bärenreiter edition to hand, it becomes still more enticing.
The Fantasy Sonata must surely be among Schubert’s greatest piano works, and one of the more accessible of the later Sonatas. And whether for studying or performing this masterpiece, this new edition from Bärenreiter is undoubtedly the one to own!”

Now that edition reappears as the opening work in Volume III of Bärenreiter’s complete Schubert Sonatas edition, in which is is joined by the great Sonatas in C minor, A major and B flat major, D 958, 959 and 960 respectively, surely three of the most hallowed pieces in the entire classical piano repertoire.

Read on for the Pianodao review…

Continue reading Schubert: The Late Sonatas

Is this the definitive KV 331?

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Published in 1784, Mozart’s Sonata in A major, with its famous Rondo Alla Turca finale, is one of the most popular works in the entire classical piano repertoire.

A couple of years ago, a newly resurfaced section of the lost autograph prompted Bärenreiter to issue an up-to-date Urtext edition of this celebrated piece, which appeared as edition BA 9186.

Now, another source has surfaced with the appearance of a previously unknown contemporaneous copy of the complete manuscript, which has prompted the esteemed publisher to update their urtext edition again.

The newly discovered source by a professional Viennese copyist sheds new light on the numerous discrepancies between autographs and first editions of many Mozart sonatas. It supports the assumption that the revision of the text for the first edition resulted from the change of target group from Mozart’s inner circle to an audience of connoisseurs and amateurs, but that this did not render the original autograph text obsolete; rather, both versions of the sonata represent historical realities.

According to the publishers,

“To achieve a truly faithful scholarly-critical performance edition of Mozart’s sonata, the editor, Mario Aschauer, has set new editorial standards and offers the most innovative methodological approach of our time by presenting the musical texts of the autograph and the original print separately without merging the sources editorially to a new text. On the basis of the newly discovered source, it is possible for the first time to reconstruct the autograph of this famous sonata and offer it to the performer as a self-contained playable version.”

Exciting stuff, so let’s take a closer look!

Continue reading Is this the definitive KV 331?

Schubert’s “Fantasy Sonata” in G major

Sheet Music Review

20th March 1989 is embedded in my memory as the evening on which I attended one of the most magical classical piano recitals!

Although I was seated in the balcony, and towards the back of London’s Royal Festival Hall, I could just as well have been sat in the front row, such was the silent rapture of the audience. In semi darkness, lit by just one small lamp, the legendary Sviatoslav Richter quitly took to the stage and opened the recital with the hushed tones of a simple but fully-fleshed G major chord.

At this point in his career, Richter had given up announcing his programme – which didn’t stop tickets for his recitals from selling out within minutes of going on sale. But that opening chord was sufficient to announce to the pianophile audience that we were about to be served a very special musical treat:

Schubert’s magical “Fantasy Sonata” in G major, Op.78, D.894.

In Richter’s hands, this joyous work took on a new dimension – and not least because of his controversially slow interpretation of the first movement, lasting a full 25 minutes (compared to the more usual 15 – in Wilhelm Kempff’s recording this movement lasts just 10’54”, albeit omitting the repeats).

While I love Schubert’s Sonatas as a whole, the G major is perhaps even more dear to me than the others because of this much-treasured memory. So I was delighted when the brand new Bärenreiter Urtext edition dropped onto my door mat for review …

Continue reading Schubert’s “Fantasy Sonata” in G major