BEETHOVEN Diabelli Variations (Gorini)
It is easy to hear why Filippo Gorini should have won the 2015 Telekom Beethoven Competition at the age of 20, and why Alfred Brendel should have taken him under his wing. Everything in his recording of the Diabelli Variations shows musical awareness and technical aplomb at a high level of fusion, and his own booklet essay confirms his grasp of the overall architecture – a journey from the mundane to the celestial in four arcs, as he puts it – as well as immediate character.
Never is there a whiff of tastelessness, over-statement or superficiality in Gorini’s playing. The theme itself has a Brendelesque brusqueness in the way it dusts the grace notes and dismisses the quavers, and everything thereafter is shapely and intelligent.
What’s not to admire? Well, it would be unrealistic to expect the young Italian to have as much command of colour, voicing and phrase-sculpting as the greats who have recorded the work; which in turn means that he cannot yet push Beethovenian wit, mystery or fury to comparable extremes. Beyond the musical in Beethoven there is the revelatory, and some of Gorini’s playing does sound a little too matter-of-fact for such descriptors. Given his overall conception it’s perfectly in order for him to keep the first ‘arc’ on the restrained side. But by the time we reach the rolling triplets of Variation 7 – here controlled to a fault – it starts to dawn that he will never fully go to the demonic or the other-worldly. The silences of the Vivace Var 13 are genial rather than divinely bonkers, and Var 19 is a comfortable allegro rather than a wild presto; the Mozart paraphrase of Var 22 is spelt out accurately but without much charm, and so on.
Better this than wilful contortion, of course, but excellent though this recording is for a 22-year-old – or by any standards, in fact – it does not have the sheer eloquence or authority of a Kovacevich (in 1968), an Anderszewki or a Levit. Recording quality is good, but not outstanding in the way that Sony’s is for Levit.