Diabelli’s Variations and the Hugh Lane’s mysterious moving piano

American pianist Edmund Battersby, who gave the opening concert of the Dublin International Piano Festival at the Hugh Lane Gallery on Saturday, may well have felt at times that he was in some sort of movie scene rather than in a regular concert.

While he was playing, the piano began to move away from him. It wasn’t a full concert grand, and didn’t have lockable castors. The gallery has a shiny floor, and the instrument didn’t always manage to stay in its place. Battersby coped masterfully, making the necessary adjustments as if he were merely fixing his jacket or making himself more comfortable on the piano stool.

His savoir faire was all the more remarkable given that he was playing one of the most daunting works in the repertoire, Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations.

The story of these variations is well known. The composer and publisher Anton Diabelli decided to create a “patriotic anthology” by sending all the important Austrian composers of the day a simple waltz theme of his own for each to write a variation on.

Beethoven rejected Diabelli’s original idea, and described the theme as a “cobbler’s patch”. But he changed his mind and wrote a set of 33 variations, which Diabelli proudly published as a companion piece to the 50 variations he had received from other hands.

via Diabelli’s Variations and the Hugh Lane’s mysterious moving piano.

All 33 Variations