BEETHOVEN - HANS RICHTER-HAASER - Thirty-Three VARIATIONS on a Waltz by Diabelli Opo. 120 - HANS RICHTER-HAASER
Record is VG++
Laminated Flip jacket VG+ slight cornerwear
Columbia / EMI Records UK
A side: VARIATIONS on a Waltz by Diabelli 1-20, 25 min 03
B side: VARIATIONS on a Waltz by Diabelli 21-33 - 22min 03
Richter-Haaser plays it as he thinks Beethoven might have played it—fairly fast, with emphatic accents. Backhaus and Katchen apparently don't like it, and so they hurry through it, as quickly as they can, ignoring the fact that it is a waltz. All through, Ancla's performance is the most individual, but this is merely a polite way of saying that he frequently ignores the composer's clearly expressed intentions. Which seems sufficient reason for me to ignore him from now on, though his performance does linger in the mind and his name may well creep back into this column against my better judgement.
Katchen and RichterHaaser both try to obey the composer's directions, Richter-Haaser perhaps more consistently, and I am inclined to pick his as the best performance in the catalogue for this reason. He plays the more angular variations with just the right emphasis on their musical content. They sound difficult, but more than that, not merely difficult. He does rather bang in the big fugue just before the end, bringing out the repeated-note theme so strongly that the semiquaver runs hardly register at times.
The result is exciting and I'm prepared to bet Beethoven would have played it that way himself, but I must confess to a liking for Ancla's quieter performance which lets you hear all the notes.
But taking the broad view RichterHaaser offers a hard-centred intellectual performance, immensely competent technically, and often very exciting.