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Uri Caine: Concerto Koln: Diabelli Variations

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With apologies to partisans of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Ludwig van Beethoven’s 33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli is the greatest set of variations ever written. Beethoven’s opus begins with straightforward modifications of publisher Anton Diabelli’s theme, moves on to outright mockery of the theme’s banality, accelerates into a whirlwind of destructive energy, quotes the styles of past composers in an attempt to rebuild and then finally passes into variations on variations, now divorced from the theme completely, the music more exalted with each iteration.

This progression presents obvious possibilities for the adventuresome jazz player, and it should be no surprise that Uri Caine, whose postmodern funhouse interpretation of the Goldberg Variations (2000) shed new light on old music, should now turn his hand to Beethoven’s opus. In this case, however, Caine gains the freedom to interpret not from relentless stylistic juxtaposition, but from a very old form: the concerto.

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