The Italian Ground
Mein junges leben Hat Ein End'
Est - Ce Mars
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Do you remember in the movie Amadeus when the young boy Mozart sits down at the clavichord and for the delight of the Emperor and embarrassment of Salieri quickly improvises half a dozen variations on a tune by the latter, ending up with something completely different? Well, Mozart is duly represented on this remarkable disc by brilliant pianist and scholar David Rogosin, a professor of piano from New Brunswick, who endeavours to trace the variation genre for the past 400 years, from early music (Gibbons) through the Baroque (Handel), the classical (Mozart, Beethoven) and the Romantic (Chopin) to the present, ending up with a special composition by Rogosin’s friend Kevin Morse, 12 Variations on a Fantasia by J.S. Bach.
Rogosin calls this an “exploration” and this is his third recording of similar explorations of various aspects of musical composition. What amazes me is his ability to capture the essence of each different period and interpret it with flawless technical brilliance.
The journey begins in the 16th century with Orlando Gibbons and it’s interesting to follow how the form develops from the simple to the complex, delving into the character and emotional aspect of the themes, proving the variation format to be the most difficult way of composition, testing the composer’s inventiveness to come up with something different with each variation.
Traditionalist as I am, I was most impressed with Beethoven’s magisterial 32 Variations which amply illustrates how far it is possible to deviate yet never abandon the theme and firmly hold a composition together. Chopin’s Berceuse (actually a set of variations) is also a very good choice; Rogosin plays with a beautiful soft legato, the mark of a master pianist.