First published in the Guardian on 17 August, 2017
Beethoven: Diabelli Variations
Filippo Gorini (Alpha)
Beethoven’s massive and confounding Diabelli Variations isn’t the obvious choice for a debut disc, but the young Italian pianist Filippo Gorini seems intently drawn to the strange drama of this martial little tune and its mysterious decorations. When Alfred Brendel heard him playing it he invited Gorini to study with him and you can hear why. Gorini has a fearless attack in heftier variations and an inquisitive, ultra-focused touch as the themes start to splinter and turn inward. His chorale in Variation 20 is breathtakingly still; the whispered Variations 29-31 are haunting. For me the clinch moment of this piece comes at the end of Variation 32, when the bombast suddenly drains away as if there’s nothing left to say. Gorini takes us to a very desolate place before unfolding a pearl-like closing minuet, full of new fragility. It is brave, original playing for a musician of any age.