Uri Caine is doing with Western classical music what jazz musicians have always done with Broadway show tunesreinterpreting them. His work has mostly garnered great success and reception. Thus far, Caine has addressed the music of Bach, Wagner, Schumann, and Mahler. Now we find the brilliant chameleon turning his attention to the Revolutionary from Bonn Ludwig van Beethoven.
Specifically, Caine addresses a set of variations the composer wrote based on a waltz conceived by the nineteenth century music publisher Anton Diabelli. The Diabelli Variations traveled a circuitous route from the initial waltz theme to the fully realized Beethoven collection. Originally, Diabelli conceived of providing a theme to the creme de la creme of Viennese composers with the hope that these composers would provide a variation, all of which could be collected and sold to raise money for the families of veterans who perished in recent wars. Beethoven received this commission and originally dismissed it, though eventually he did submit a variation. That was enough to whet the composer's interest and Beethoven went on to compose a full set of variations that provide a worthy sister to Bach's Goldberg Variations.
Like his earlier treatment of the Goldberg Variations, Caine combines the piano with an orchestra, though this time a little more traditionally. Caine uses the excellent period instrument orchestra Concerto Koln for his vision of the Diabelli Variations and performs on a period Fortepiano, both to great effect. The variations are effectively converted into a song cycle, with and without orchestra or, perhaps better, a series of short piano concertos. Like his previous forays into the classical realm, Caine willingly combines classical and jazz elements, seasoning the festivities with a bit of barrelhouse boogie woogie in one place, a bit of Harlem Stride in another, and a bit of Bill Evans impressionism in yet another. The results are a very listenable bit of genius that should appeal to those with a jazz and/or classically bent alike.