Welcome to Hyperion Records, an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.
Hyperion offers both CDs, and downloads in a number of formats. The site is also available in several languages.
Please use the dropdown buttons to set your preferred options, or use the checkbox to accept the defaults.
The theme, Happy birthday, is never actually stated: the television programme could only be fourteen minutes long and the variations themselves left no extra space for it to be added. It isn’t necessary anyway—its presence is felt, melodically or harmonically, in almost every bar of the piece. The composers who enter and exit form quite a Who’s Who in the music world. The opening variations are dedicated to Mozart, building them up the way Mozart himself does in his many sets of variations. There is a touching nod to the C minor Piano Concerto K491 and a graceful 6/8 variation that perhaps triggers memories of the Sonata in A major K331. Beethoven eventually enters with hushed Adagio chords, like the slow movement of the ‘Appassionata’ Sonata Op 57—and he hangs around for the next three variations, with more than a passing nod to the Sonata in A major Op 101. Mendelssohn makes a brief and capricious entrance, lost in Midsummer Night Dreams, but is soon joined by Robert Schumann for a march in Études symphoniques style, which rhythmically (and appositely) ties in with the earlier Beethoven scherzando. Brahms, naturally enough, follows Schumann in two variations that contrast his lyrical style—remembered from parts of the Ballades, Rhapsodies and Intermezzi—with the grand chordal sweep of the final variation from his towering Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel Op 24. The touching simplicity of Chopin’s A major Prelude is recalled, but also the majestic rhythms of the Polonaise Op 53, before Liszt improvises unmistakeably on a motif from the original theme, as in the lassan of a Hungarian Rhapsody. He tinkles and trills as he does in La campanella, makes life difficult for pianists, as in the fiendish Malédiction for piano and strings, declaims in a Wagnerian way, as in his transcription of Isolde’s Liebestod, or rockets off as in his first Piano Concerto. But he doesn’t get the final say. That is reserved for Prokofiev, in Op 11 Toccata mode. The variations cover about as much history as the nonagenarian Hopkins himself! Well, perhaps a bit more …
from notes by Piers Lane © 2013