BBC Music: Double 5 Stars June 2012; Klassik Heute 10/10/10 May 2012; Music Web International: "BIS’s SACD sonics are superb, and with the usual accessible and informative booklet notes by Roeland Hazendonk this is something of a highlight even of Brautigam’s brilliant Beethoven". (May 2012).
Theme and variations’ is one form that Beethoven employed throughout his career. He wrote his first surviving set while still a boy in Bonn and finished the last one some forty years later – a statistical fact that becomes interesting when one considers the inherent tension between the composer’s dramatic style and the static and decorative nature of the form itself. Towards the end of the 18th century variation form was generally used for entertaining elaborations on popular tunes but Beethoven, being Beethoven, changed the ground rules radically. For a while he followed the convention – or shrewd marketing strategy – of using existing melodies from operas or ballets, but often these would almost immediately undergo such profound transformations that he might as well have used an unknown theme. As a consequence it is understandable that Beethoven’s variations were often considered much too learned, far too eccentric and, by some, even offensive.