Beethoven: Diabelli Variations/Frith

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 7

Benjamin Frith’s 1991 Diabelli Variations has long occupied a place on my short list of this work’s recorded editions. Happily, Sanctuary Classics gives it a new lease on life, and at a price all can afford. Frith largely favors fast tempos and inflects them with infectious vitality. His acute instinct for transitions and keen ear for the music’s prodigious cross-rhythmic inner life generate a sense of white heat and continuity that sweep you along on a creative journey rather than subject you to a lecture/recital. At the same time, Frith brings all the lyricism, tenderness, and dignified reserve we could wish for to the more introspective movements. Frith’s unified tempo relationships and clean, symmetrical fingerwork also yield satisfying results in the 32 Variations, although Moravec’s similar pianistically oriented reading boasts greater refinement and warmth. An attractive Beethoven bargain awaits those who can deal with the slightly muffled and bass-shy engineering.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Kovacevich (Philips), Arrau (Philips), Serkin (Sony)

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN - Diabelli Variations Op. 120; 32 Variations on an Original Theme in C minor WoO 80

  • Benjamin Frith (piano)

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