BEETHOVEN Diabelli Variations / Ashkenazy 4758401

. . . [Ashkenazy tears into the "Diabelli Variations" with] fire and drive . . . the result is sheer magic. One listens, rapt, waiting how Ashkenazy is going to play each succeeding variation, and his energy here is matched by a rare playfulness.

Vladimir Ashkenazy's retreat from public piano performances has coincided with some of his most ambitious studio efforts behind the keyboard in years. His version of Op 120 reveals a more forthright and sharply contoured Beethoven style than in the past: check out his vivid No 10, his blazing No 32 fugue and the impeccable trills in Nos 6 and 16. The slower movements are brisker than usual, yet carry plenty of expressive weight . . . there's much to admire.