Beethoven: Diabelli Variations Gerard Willems (Piano) ABC Classics 476 4113

To mark the 10th anniversary of completing his ARIA award-winning CD set of Beethoven piano sonatas, Gerard Willems has now recorded the Diabelli Variations, one of the most important pieces in the piano repertory.

Willems is the first artist to ever record this extraordinary hour-long work in Australia. This landmark disc marks the finale of Australia’s largest classical music project, which commenced in 1996. It has involved the recording of all 32 piano sonatas of Beethoven, plus the five piano concertos.

Willems has long been regarded Australia’s pre-eminent interpreter of Beethoven and with this latest instalment, he has proven himself that he is without peer. To record the Diabelli Variations, he chose a magnificent Stuart & Sons piano. This Australian-designed and manufactured piano was Wayne Stuart’s latest creation. Remarkably, it has an extra two octaves for enhanced resonance, producing an unrivalled sound that gives this great composer a most unique Australian voice.

Throughout the 33 variations we hear a huge range of emotions and musical ideas, from a waltz, march and two fugues to striking dramatic moments and challenging structural gestures. Was Beethoven proving himself to the lesser Diabelli who invited him to write just one variation for a set to be put together by himself? The outpouring of creativity has resulted in a true feat of pianistic fervour.

And if the complete set of variations is not enough on this disc, then listeners can also enjoy the Andante favori and the Bagatelle (Fur Elise).

In this disc, we celebrate the magnificence of this Australian instrument, the wonder and sheer genius of Beethoven, and the superlative artistry of Gerard Willems.

For a mini-documentary on the recording and historical perspectives on this great work, the ABC has a video available at www.youtube.com/abcclassics

19 November 2010