Here you can read reviews about our SACD.
- Disc of the month at WHOLE NOTE magazine (Canada):
“Everything about this new recording speaks to Alcantara’s tremendous sense of commitment to this work, and to this project. I’ve never seen better CD liner notes in my life. (...)Alcantara’s playing leaves nothing to be desired. You can hear the will of his personality combined with moments of raucous humour, tenderness, reverence, and passion. In every way, this recording is a stunning achievement.” Jamie Parker
- AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE (USA):
“Alcantara lets the music speak for itself and never calls attention to his technical accomplishments. (...) If this does not displace Serkin, Demidenko, Bishop-Kovacevich, and others in my affection, it certainly joins them.” Alan Becker
- THE ABSOLUTE SOUND magazine (USA):
“He communicates fully the wealth of Beethoven’s invention and imagination, the three sublime variations in C minor (Nos. 29–31) creating a mood of deep, spiritual introspection. (...)Worthwhile.” Andrew Quint
- Web site AUDIOPHILE AUDITION (USA):
“In a rather daunting, encyclopedic fashion, Brazilian pianist and the Sui Generis label have collaborated on a thickly annotated edition of Beethoven's C Major Variations on a Theme of Diabelli (...).” Gary Lemco
- SOUNDSTAGE! magazine (Canada):
“Once in a while a disc comes in that seems to stand above the others: all the details are covered and right in place. Such a release is Marco Alcantara’s performance of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations on a two-channel SACD/CD from Sui Generis. Alcantara plays with flair, precision, and lyricism on a piano tuned to the even-tempered scale known as Thomas Young #1." Rad Bennett
- VEJA magazine (Brazil):
“(...) Mr. Alcantara uses a historical tuning for the piano, which brings a colourful sound to this recording. It includes sketches for the work, never recorded before.”
- Web site DIGESTIVO CULTURAL (Brazil):
“(...)It is amazing to find a musician so conscious of his work, so worried about giving a true contribution to the work, and at the same time, with such a sensitive and talented playing. (...) Marco followed the steps of other masters, like Alfred Brendel, and put another piece in the Diabelli’s puzzle, while deeply investigating this huge sea called Beethoven.” Julio Daio Borges
- FOLHA DE SÃO PAULO newspaper (Brazil):
“ (...) the disc has impressive audio quality.” Irineu Franco Perpetuo
- CORREIO BRAZILIENSE newspaper (Brazil):
“There is a collection of musical reasons, which makes this interpretation important for the Variations, but it is in the small details that Mr. Alcantara’s work begins.” Nahima Maciel
- ÁUDIO E VÍDEO magazine (Brazil):
“The technical quality makes this recording even more important: the care in choosing the piano, location, tuning, but above all that, the interpretation are impeccable!
It is an obligatory disc for anyone who like classical music or not.
Even if you should go to the Himalayas to get this disc, it would be worth it.” Fernando Andrette
- Web site CORREIO WEB (Brazil):
“It is the first classical music SACD (Super Audio) in Brazil. The CD also includes a booklet in English and Portuguese with 173 pages and sketches for the Diabelli Variations.” Ronaldo Mendes
- AGÊNCIA JB (Brazil):
“(...) masterfully modelled with a level of musical understanding and interpretation in perfect synchrony with the pieces’ huge dimension." Carlos Eduardo Muniz da Silva
- CORREIO DO POVO – RS newspaper (Brazil):
“The result, already praised in many different magazines, is a vigorous, liric elegant and precise interpretation.” Daniel Soares
If you prefer, you can read the complete reviews:
The American Record Guide published a review of our SACD in the November/December edition. Read what Mr. Alan Becker said:
'This new label from Brazil adds a special twist to the already overflowing list of Beethoven Diabelli Variations. Tracks 35-51 contain the composer's sketches for the massive work, and they are fascinating as a means of looking into the master's creative process. In addition to this, we are given a 173-page booklet prepared by the pianist with analysis, musical examples, and facsimiles of a few pages from the manuscript – in two languages, English and Brazilian Portuguese. The farcical picture of Beethoven on the cover may make some suspicious of the seriousness of the project. Fear not. The only real negatives to be found are the cost and the tight pocket, which requires delicate handling not to damage the disc.
I see that Amazon.com offers it for $35, so scholarship doesn't come cheap. Alcantara also uses historical tuning, so few stones have been left unturned. At this point the reader might ask if it is all worth it? Decidedly yes, would have to be my reply. If you like splash and dash in your Diabelli, this would not be the performance for you. Alcantara lets the music speak for itself and never calls attention to his technical accomplishments.
From the opening statement of the theme to the concluding variations, the pianist takes special care to avoid getting in the way of the music. With the special tuning, performance on a fortepiano might have been expected. As the notes point out, Alcantara has a clear preference for the sound of a modern instrument. Heard on SACD, this preference is amply justified, though the reproduction on a standard CD player does nicely enough.
High points are Variation 20 for the intense concentration given the Andante and the concluding Largo and Fugue. The Largo, the longest variation, has plenty of opportunity to advance its cause with both beauty and heartbreak. With the concluding Tempo di Minuetto Moderato we have come full circle as the Diabelli Variations closes much as it began, with a light touch. If this does not displace Serkin, Demidenko, Bishop-Kovacevich, and others in my affection, it certainly joins them.
The sketches consume less than nine minutes but are essential to our understanding of the composer's thought process. An introduction, for example, was originally conceived to be played before the statement of the theme. Beethoven decided to abandon it, but these first ideas are included here. Alcantara also plays the first few notes of the theme so we can hear how it fits in. This, along with pages of notes about each sketch are analyzed by the pianist. Also fascinating is a table for each of the variations where Czerny, Brendel, and others have given a name for each variation. This includes Alcantara as well, who certainly deserves the right to contribute his thoughts.'
One of the most important magazines in Brazil, Veja, recommended our disc. Read what they said:
'Mr. Alcantara: an intriguing Beethoven
Beethoven - Diabelli Variations, Marco Alcantara (Sui Generis) – In 1819, the composer Anton Diabelli sent to various colleagues a small theme, asking for one variation. Beethoven wrote his one, but he got curious about the possibilities of that work. At the end, the composer had created his longest piece for the piano, composed of 33 variations, which encompasses from parody to his usual force and energy. A little hard to grasp at first audition, but very rich regarding Beethoven’s reinventions to the careful ears, Mr. Alcantara’s recording uses a special tuning for the piano, which gives us a colourful sound. It also includes sketches never recorded before.'
The website Digestivo Cultural is famous in Brazil for its sharp reviews. Julio Daio Borges wrote:
'Is there any way to fight against the omnipresence of music on the Internet? Maybe not. One idea – but not a solution – is maybe to experiment new formats and distribute new information, more sofitiscated than mp3 and more contextualized than a mere Google’s search. That is what Sui Generis did by launching Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, played by the Brazilian pianist Marco Alcantara, in the new Super Audio format (SACD), with one of the biggest (and best) booklets in the history of recording. Mr. Alcantara did a deep research, and, besides the theme and 33 variations, recorded 17 sketches from the Bonn’s master. Not pleased yet, he used a historical tuning as well. Mr. Alcantara wrote himself the entire booklet, with more than 150 pages, which covers the inexhaustible Diabelli Variations, from its conception to an extensive bibliography, not forgetting the sketches and the tuning. At a country where people still believe in art as "inspiration" – and psychic artists – it is amazing to find a musician so conscious of his work, so worried about giving a true contribution to the work, and, at the same time, with such a sensitive and talented playing. Outside Brazil – since the disc is available here just now, in the second semester – Mr. Alcantara and his version of Beethoven’s Diabelli Varitions were unanimously welcome. It could not be different. Marco followed the steps of other masters, like Alfred Brendel, and put another piece in the Diabelli’s puzzle, while deeply investigating this huge sea called Beethoven. In a funny auto-interview, Mr. Alcantara suggests he would like to work with different tunings...That he accomplishes this and other projects, is the sincere wish from the ones who listen to him.'
Journalist Nahima Maciel wrote a longer article for the newspaper Correio Braziliense:
'Beethoven with a historical mood
Yes, Beethoven was really in a good mood during those days in 1819. It was so unusual, that it motivated the violinist and friend Anton Schindler to record in his diary those few smiles from the composer known as grumpy. The reason was the variations on a theme of another composer, Anton Diabelli, in which Beethoven was working on. A few months later Schindler would have gotten an impolite "Get out of here". Beethoven had finished the Variations and had started his Ninth Symphony. This story is told by pianist Marco Alcantara to explain why Beethoven has such an ironic smile at the cover of his CD Beethoven Diabelli Variations. The disc took three years to be prepared and it has just been launched by Sui Generis. There is a collection of musical reasons, which makes this interpretation important for the variations, but it is in the small details that Mr. Alcantara’s work begins.
The cover is a smiling version of Ferdinand Waldmüller’s famous painting of Beethoven. The booklet has a huge text, written in Portuguese and English with the detailed history of the Diabelli Variations. The text was written by Mr. Alcantara to contextualize the piece’s composition. The 176 pages tell you how Beethoven apparently denied Diabelli’s invitation to write only one variation to, at the end, finish with his 33. It took Beethoven four years to compose the piece. During this period he composed 3 Piano Sonatas and finished the Missa Solemnis. The Diabelli Variations are difficult to fit inside our traditional idea of Beethoven’s music. "It’s a unique work", warns Alcantara. "It has completly different compositional styles inside. The Variations belong to a period when Beethoven was going to a new direction. There are both archaizing and modernizing styles in it and this piece has a bigger influence today than it had during Beethoven’s time."
Beethoven founded Romanticism in Classical Music through his symphonic works with epíc and heroic contours. He did it during his second period, which had more influence on the History of Music. The third and last period, however, had little impact on the next generation. In this last period, Beethoven was more focused in more personal ways of expression, with emphasis in genres like fugue and variations. The Diabelli Variations belong to this period.
A good way to understand the piece’s form is to listen carefully to its first part, from the theme until variation 10, in which there is a tension growing punctured by relatively calm parts. After variation 10 the sonority changes. There is a serenity within these slower variations. Besides all the beauty and its importance, Mr. Alcantara has other reasons to justify his recording.
The Diabelli Variations have been recorded by Vladimir Ashkenazy, Maurizio Pollini, Daniel Barenboim, Sviatoslav Richter and a dozen more important pianists during the last 40 years. What could possibly bring another recording of this piece? "It is probably the first recording using historical tuning in Brazil", says Alcantara. Instead of a piano tuned in equal temperament, as we are used to having today, Alcantara prefered a tuning used during Beethoven’s time. The American Scott Kuhn made this tuning, where the white keys are more in tune than the black ones. This makes more far away keys more “out of tune”, just like in Beethoven’s piano.
Alcantara has also included some of Beethoven’s sketches for the work. "Actually I started studying these sketches as an introduction to my concert with the Diabelli", explains. These sketches that would become later the Diabelli Variations help us follow Beethoven’s thoughts, from the very ordinary musical ideas to the outstanding final version.'
For the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, Irineu Franco Perpetuo wrote:
'In the high-fidelity format SACD, which also plays in regular CD players, pianist Marco Alcantara plays – in a Hamburg Steinway – the 33 Variations Beethoven wrote in 1823, on a waltz by the Viennese editor Anton Diabelli. The work has at the same time a concise and variety quality, synthesizing the piano history until then, but also foretelling the future. Recorded in Santa Marcelina College, in Sao Paulo, the disc has impressive audio quality.
Why hear it: this high quality disc also includes the first world recording of Beethoven’s sketches for the work, and a booklet with 173 pages, with a text in English and Portuguese about the piece.'
The journalist Hugo Cals wrote for JBOnline newspaper:
'The first classical music SACD ever made in Brazil hits stores:
Rio – Classical music is a sofisticated genre with a selected audience with refined ears. Although it is not at the Top Ten list or does not bring thousands to gigantic concerts, the symphonic elegance of violins, flutes and other instruments has many followers around the world. Audiophiles, the fans of this kind of music always look for sound quality in the available titles. In October it will be released in Brazil,the first Brazilian SACD (Super Audio) of this genre, a new technology which encompasses a much larger sound spectrum – which means more quality – than normal CDs. JBOnline asked retired civil engineer and classical music specialist, Carlos Eduardo Muniz da Silva, to review this disc.
Here is his complete text:
I have just received one copy from the not yet released auspicious Brazilian record (release date: October 2007) first calssical music SACD made in Brazil. It is the Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations Op. 120, for the very first time using historical tuning on a modern instrument. The interpreter of this huge work is the Brazilian pianist Marco Alcantara, who also wrote the booklet with 173 pages, in English and Portuguese. The booklet has a CD case on its back.
The composition is inserted in the spiritual, last period of Beethoven’s works, in which the master’s pieces exuberantly sublimate in such a way that it does not find similar in the universal history of music. Therefore, it is an auspicious iniciative, when calssical music has been so despised by the phonographic industry, specially in Brazil.
About the work, it does record Anton Diabelli’s intension, who was, by the way, also a composer and a music editor. A waltz of his own would receive variations composed by the most important composers known by him, including Franz Schubert and an eleven-year-old boy, Franz Liszt. At first, Beethoven denied the proposition, claiming that the waltz was not musically worthwhile, which does not prevent him to, at the end, compose these variations that have become one of his best and most important works.
About the future release, besides the artistic aspect of the interpretation, we must praise the graphic excellency. It does not please me, though, the choosen Beethoven’s face, which looks like a TV comedian. The incorporated smile in his semblance has nothing to do with the seriousness of Bonn’s master. Anyway, it must be praised the text written by the Brazilian pianist, who showed a rare musical wisdom, specially about Beethoven’s last period.
I must confess that, at a first audition, the timbre quality of the piano using the historical tuning did not please me, and sounded, to my ears, lacking brightness and emotion. By the way, it must be said that the piece itself, which has a high musical value, is completly devoided from ‘páthos’, in comparison with other piano works from the composer.
I believe that this aspect I had just mentioned is not present, at least so clearly, in other recordings I have heard using traditional tuning. I compared this recording with Argentinian pianist Daniel Barenboim, which at first, sounded more fiery and expressive, thanks to the traditional sonority my ears were used to. Nevertheless, at a second audition, I noticed that my lack of brightness impression was totally wrong. This time the timbre produced by the historical tuning pleased me more, which sounded closer to what we are used to, plus the extra offered by the super audio format.
About the artist, one can see he is a scholar and has profound knowledge of this work, which besides his evident virtues, would already be enough to make this disc enthusiastically recommended to high level conception consumers. It is masterfully modelled with a level of musical understanding and interpretation in perfect synchrony with the piece’s huge dimension.'
At the end of the month, Ronaldo Mendes wrote for Correio Web:
For three years Marco Alcantara studied Beethoven’s life. The result of this young pianist dedication can be checked in Beethoven Diabelli Variations, a new CD release from Sui Generis. Even though the work has been recorded by masters like Daniel Baremboim and Vladimir Ashkenazy, these 33 variations played by Mr. Alcantara have a unique style.
One thing that can possibly explain the difference in this recording is that Mr. Alcantara chose a tuning similar to Beethoven’s (a historical tuning). He guarantees, nonetheless, his preference for the modern piano. "Despite being very enlightening, frankly the instrument just doesn’t sound good to me and I am convinced that the modern piano is the best vehicle for Beethoven’s keyboard music", he explains.
Beethoven composed the Diabelli Variations before working on his Ninth Symphony. The piece is different from everything else the German composer wrote. It looks like it was composed to relieve the tense moments while writing the Missa Solemnis. During his time, Diabelli was the owner of a publishing music company. He asked various composers to write a variation on a theme of his.
Beethoven did not answer, but four years later he had not one, but the 33 variations recorded here. Marco Alcantara’s recording brings another unique feature: it is the first classical music SACD (Super Audio) made in Brazil. It comes with a 173-page booklet in English and Portuguese and some Beethoven’s sketches for the work.'
The audio magazine Áudio e Vídeo published the first Brazilian review of our SACD. Read what Fernando Andrette wrote:
'This month’s highlitght is undoubtedly the beautiful SACD from the Brazilian pianist Marco Alcantara. It is amazing the quantity of information that comes within its 176-page booklet.
All done by the musician.
On the Acknowledgments page, Marco Alcantara wrote: "it is finally over. This SACD, which I believe to be the first Brazilian classical music SACD, gave me lots of work. But now, after all these years of suffering, I am happy with the final result."
On the preface, which is an interview with the pianist, Mr. Alcantara explains what is the disc and why it gave him so much work.
"- What exactly is this CD?
- It is the world’s first recording, using historical tuning, of Beethoven’s most important work for piano, the Diabelli Variations Opus 120. It includes some of the sketches written by Beethoven of the work, that I’ve chosen and edited, material never before commercially released.
- Why have you decided to write the text for the booklet?
- I write, first of all, to learn more; because while writing I test and organize what I know.
- Why did you record them using historical tuning? What difference does it make?
- The short answer would be: because I had the chance to try it and I liked it. The historical tuning we used, the Young # 1, is not as radical as many others and, therefore, not so different from what we are accustomed to hearing."
It is a historical recording that you must know, made by a great, dedicated and talented musician.
On the same preface the interviewer asks Mr. Alcantara a pertinent question, about the possibility of this matherial being too technical to the listener, since it had never been recorded before. And the pianist’s asnwer is brilliant: "When we come into contact with a work of art we ask ourselves what it is, we try to understand it. That’s what I’ve done: I’ve put extra material in this CD so people can know more about how Beethoven composed one of the most important pieces ever written for the piano."
The technical quality makes this recording even more important: the care in choosing the piano, location, tuning, but above all that, the interpretation are impeccable!
It is an obligatory disc for anyone who likes classical music or not.
Even if you should go to the Himalayas to get this disc, it would be worth it.'
The newspaper Correio do Povo published this review from Daniel Soares:
'Rare Beethoven in commented edition
The Brazilian pianist Marco Alcantara is ahead of one of the world most important classical music releases, the Beethoven Diabelli Variations (Sui Generis). Besides the historical value of the pieces, the disc is the first SACD (a high performance audio system) made in Brazil. It also brings, for the first time ever, the piece recorded using a historical tuning and Beethoven’s sketches for the work.
The Austrian music editor Anton Diabelli was known for getting variations on his music from people like Schubert, Hummel, Czerny and Liszt. From Beethoven, he got 33 variations, considered by many his greatest work for the piano.
To reach the piece’s original sense, Mr. Alcantara’s piano used a tuning called Thomas Young n.1. The result, already praised in many different magazines, is a vigorous, liric elegant and precise interpretation. The disc also has a huge booklet, with commentaries on the piece.'
Another program on Radio Cultura of Sao Paulo. Probably the most famous radio program about piano in Brazil, Pianíssimo, played our disc Beethoven Diabelli Variations. We were honored with the positive critic received from pianist Gilberto Tinetti.
The american audio magazine The Absolute Sound published in June/July edition a review about our SACD. Andrew Quint wrote:
'The history of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Op.120 is familiar. Anton Diabelli, an Austrian music publisher, solicited variations on a waltz theme of his own devising from dozens of composers including Schubert, Hummel, Czerny, and Liszt. Beethoven initially declined—he didn’t like Diabelli’s theme or the concept of the project—but then proceeded to write 33 variations for what many consider to be his greatest keyboard work.
Brazilian pianist Marco Alcantata has made the first recording of the Diabellis to utilize “historical tuning” and also programs 8 ½ minutes of Beethoven’s sketches for the piece, some as brief as 11 seconds. The disc comes with a 176-page booklet (including 13 pages of footnotes and references) that is exhaustively informative. Alcantara’s performance is solid, coherent, and considered account. He communicates fully the wealth of Beethoven’s invention and imagination, the three sublime variations in C minor (Nos. 29–31) creating a mood of deep, spiritual introspection.
The DSD stereo recording offers wonderfully variegated piano sound. It’s bright and a bit clangy at times, but this has as much to do with the instrument’s tuning as with recording technique. Worthwhile.'
Marco Alcantara was interviewed by maestro Julio Medaglia on his radio program Contraponto, on Radio Cultura of Sao Paulo.
Read what Gary Lemco wrote about our SACD at Audiophile Audition:
'In a rather daunting, encyclopedic fashion, Brazilian pianist and the Sui Generis label have collaborated on a thickly annotated edition of Beethoven's C Major Variations on a Theme of Diabelli, along with over eight minutes of Beethoven's protean sketches, the few that still exist for this magnum opus. Alcantara's piano has been tuned according to the well-tempered system that conforms to Beethoven's original sense of aural chromatics. [It's not that different from the normal - not like quarter-tone music!...Ed.] For those who relish the physical nature of acoustics and fine tuning, the 173-page booklet provides innumerable details of pitch, harmonic series, and deviations in various modalities. Czerny and Badura-Skoda have been Alcantara's guides as to the performance-practice to be followed in Beethoven's late keyboard works.
This release qualifies as the first Brazilian classical SACD, and although only two-channel stereo the audiophile aspect of the disc is noted in a bright sound of great clarity. Alcantara's approach belies the thunderous, bravura style; he tries to provide a probing, intellectual intimacy to the huge structural design of the work, relishing its interplay of distinct lines and its occasional moments of Homeric humor. The older sound of the piano conforms to the archaic elements in the music itself, such as imitations in Variation 14 of the French overture, of three-voice polyphony, and of Bach and Handel's styles, respectively.
Some real furioso playing, as in Variation 17, Allegro, with aggressive ostinati. Elegant pearly-play in Alcantara's tone, and the slick, even surface will remind auditors of Kuerti in several instances. Variation No. 20 well sounds akin to the opening of the last movement of Op. 110, cross-fertilized with the harmonics of Op. 111. The Mozart Variation passes all too quickly, but its harmonic daring is noted. Alcantara's handling of rapid repeated notes and broken-octave filigree quite startles, shades of John Ogden. The Sketches section of the CD is a rare delight, a peek into Hephaestus' workshop. Fragmentary, hesitating, experimental in their own right, the "bagatelles" according the little C Major Waltz allow us to sit on the piano bench with the composer, searching for golden, musical threads.'
The Canadian classical music magazine Whole Note chose our SACD as the disc of the month. Read Jamie Parker's review:
'Brazilian pianist Marco Alcantara has devoted himself deeply to Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, and he’s just released the fruits of his labour on a Super Audio CD on the Sui Generis label. The Diabelli Variations take an hour to perform, and they test a pianist in every way possible. The mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual challenges of tackling this monumental work deter most pianists. I am fortunate to have heard it twice in the last year. Once last summer when Robert Silverman performed it at the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, and again last fall when I was on the jury of the Esther Honens International Piano Competition, performed by Min Soo Sohn, who became the First Laureate of that competition. Both performances were excellent.
Everything about this new recording speaks to Alcantara’s tremendous sense of commitment to this work, and to this project. I’ve never seen better CD liner notes in my life – the booklet is a whopping 173 pages long, printed in English and Portuguese. Alcantara has read and researched extensively, has included his performance of some of the early sketches of this work, has used a historical tuning (one of the most stable of the many Well-Tempered tuning systems), and written coherent, enjoyable, and very informative program notes.
Alcantara’s playing leaves nothing to be desired. You can hear the will of his personality combined with moments of raucous humour, tenderness, reverence, and passion. In every way, this recording is a stunning achievement.'
Our SACD just got its first review! Rad Bennett, music editor of SoundStage! magazine said in his march column:
'Once in a while a disc comes in that seems to stand above the others: all the details are covered and right in place. Such a release is Marco Alcantara’s performance of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations on a two-channel SACD/CD from Sui Generis. Alcantara plays with flair, precision, and lyricism on a piano tuned to the even-tempered scale known as "Thomas Young #1." The tuning sounds a bit different from what we’re used to, though not startlingly so. Information about the tuning, as well as lots about other subjects, are included in a 176-page booklet. (The package is more like a paperback book whose back cover has a place for housing a CD.) The notes about the Diabelli Variations themselves are fascinating -- one of the most interesting things to me was a chart showing descriptions of the tempo of each of the 33 variations by Carl Czerny (1842), Wilhelm von Lenz (1850), Jürgen Uhde (1968), Alfred Brendel (1984), and Alcantara (2006). The disc also includes Alcantara playing many of Beethoven’s sketches for the piece. The sound is bright, accurate, and clean. Immersed in so much multichannel audio every day, I’d forgotten how great a wonderful two-channel recording can sound. This well-documented demonstration disc reminded me in no uncertain terms.'