Classical Today – CD review Ludwig van Beethoven, Diabelli Variations

Guido Krawinkel [17 .11.2021]

As with many other works by Ludwig van Beethoven, the Diabelli Variations also display a certain degree of excess. Here, too, the free-spirited composer breaks the boundaries – by providing 33 variations instead of one on a waltz composed by the publisher Anton Diabelli – an entire cycle of variations. At the beginning, Beethoven had still mocked Diabelli’s undertaking, not wanting to deliver any variation at all. But then it obviously appealed to him and what he delivered went far beyond what was asked for. Originally, Beethoven’s variation was to be only one of many, for Diabelli had asked numerous composers of his time for one each in order to form a large collective work on it. By so rigorously disregarding the specifications, Beethoven not only made the commissioner look pretty old. He also took the subject, which he initially referred to rather disparagingly as “SchusterFleck”, to unimagined heights. From a somewhat clumsy simple waltz, he formed a huge work lasting well over an hour.

It takes a fair amount of courage and a solid technique to ascend this piano Olympus, two qualities that pianist Spartak Margaryan undoubtedly possesses. Born in Hamburg in 1994, Margaryan grew up in Germany, Sweden and Armenia. He has already won several competitions and has also appeared as a composer. With the Diabelli Variations, he has dared to tackle a pretty big chunk for his CD debut. But he hasn’t done anything wrong, his detached play is far too confident for that. The initial theme, for example, he takes with almost buoyant ease and very self-confident. The final fugue is of such captivating clarity and stringency that Beethoven’s music, which is certainly not exactly catchy, becomes immediately clear. In between, an hour-long arc unwinds, which Margaryan builds with remarkable resilience. In doing so, he does not spare extremes, for example by making the dynamics extremely rich in contrast – but he is never concerned with superficial effects. Here, the big picture is just as right as the details. Overall, this is a most remarkable debut.