Mr. Alcantara says:
It's hard to describe the Diabelli Variations. There are so many states of mind, they breathe such different 'moments', and in such a marvellous way, from the ordinary to the ineffable, that it's as big as life itself. Everything is inside: from things we think we control to unreasonable events that we cannot understand. Care to listen to a sample?
Let's begin with the famous Variation X, considered the most virtuosic of the whole cycle. It's a double variation (instead of following the repetitions of theme's both parts, Beethoven wrote different music for each repetition, doubling the size of the variation), and hits the extremes of the piano in a truly remarkable way.
But for me, the most amazing of the whole work is in the slow variations. Here are two of them:
Variation 24, first part
The Variation XXIV, a fughetta in four voices, is one of the most sublime moments in the variations. Here you can listen to its first part.
Variation 31, first part
And my favorite: Variation XXXI. The climax of the entire work, where time seems to stop, stunned by this 'deformation' of the theme. The curious thing is that only after my recording did I realize that I played this slower than any other pianist I have heard. Of course this is not a speed contest, and this doesn't mean anything in itself, but considering the connection between speed and character (a subject that I have plans to deal with in the future), it raises some questions about what this variation means. If you can, compare this first part with other recordings.
Some timings for Variation XXXI:
- Alcantara - 7'40
- Schnabel - 5'30
- Barenboim - 6'11
- Kinderman - 4'59
You can listen to the audio on this page in two different ways. Right bellow the number of the variation it should appear a control to play the music. This is the coolest way, since you can listen while reading the text. If you want, you can click on the link with the name of the variation in the middle of the text, and then download it. Have fun!