Beethoven & Brahms - Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky



Ludwig van BEETHOVEN : 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120 – Johannes BRAHMS : Piano Sonata No. 3 in F Minor, Op. 5 (Live).

Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky, Piano.

Beethoven: 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120

It is interesting to note that when the romantic paradigm first emerges (17th to 20th century), originally expressed in terms of “Seconda Pratica” by Monteverdi, the musical discourse becomes more theatrical and the spectrum of expressed emotions widens considerably as the new confessional language evolves. The Diabelli Variations cycle is no stranger to this theatralization process, which intensifies to an extreme in this work as it moves along.

At the same time, the Variations are less open to the analysis of their connotations than Beethoven’s piano sonatas. This work initially appears quite enigmatic. I believe the key to its mystery is at the end of the Variations, where the piece ends with the last thundering chord in an extravagant manner. Its meaning could be deciphered by the expression “Commedia è finita”. That is the composer’s way of letting us know that he had a lot of fun in creating this universe of metamorphoses of the initial frivolous motif.

I am convinced that the buffoonery of the final minuet has nothing to do with the transcendent and sublimated atmosphere at the end of op.111. The parallel that Alfred Brendel tries to establish between these two works seems to me misplaced within the context of this grand fresco, of this farce with a human face, of this Hindu Maya “world spectacle” that are Beethoven’s Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli.

Mircea Eliade wrote of “Dionysiac orgiasm”, which implies a transgression of rules and the “surpassing of the human condition”. For me, this is perfectly in keeping with the narrative of this work, and this conformity reveals itself in the punch, the exacerbated energy and the vitality of this music in association with the masculine element, at the opposite of which arises the feminine pole, with its ambivalent courtesy and gentleness.

This fundamental dichotomy is noticeable in the Variations themselves as well. As a general rule, the Variations start in an almost insignificant manner, but immediately go through radical transformations with the chromatization of the melodic lines and of harmonies, making this discourse suggestive and often simmering.

A connection could be established between this rather rhapsodic musical discourse and the one characteristic of Beethoven’s last sonatas (op.101, 109 or 110). The most extraordinary moment of this kaleidoscope of multiple feeling moods arises after the grotesque variation no. 28, when the extrovert expression is suddenly internalized from variation no. 29 onwards to result in variation no. 31: the essence and center of the composer’s overall message, that of an infinite compassion.

After the unrestrained and virulent fugue, a new considerable surprise: a sort of musical suspension over the abyss, on the brink of a chasm — the most fascinating and enigmatic moment in the Variations. Followed, without any transition, by this whimsical and relaxed minuet of which I have already spoken — la Commedia è finita.

A. Rabinovitch-Barakovsky
Translation Maria Balkan

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