When it comes to the Diabellis, I often prefer a more interventionist approach. I canít quite explain why, but when a pianist obviously tinkers around with the tempi (especially) and dynamics (less so), I often enjoy the results, though not always. Perhaps thatís why unlike Holden I find Piotr Anderszewski very enjoyable. Olli Mustonen is at least as interventionist, though he tends toward fast tempi and some repeat omissions, and I like him even more! Geza Anda strips out every repeat, and brings the work in at under 40 minutes, but he infuses it with such energy and effective dynamic contrasts, that itís hard not to appreciate it on its own terms. Even Anton Kuerti, whose sonata cycle Iím not too wild about, delivers a superb, highly individual (ie, idiosyncratic) take.
But of course a more ďstraight-forwardĒ approach can yield enormous dividends. Exhibit A here is Rudolf Serkin, whose recording is still probably my favorite. Sure, the sound is dated and a pesky cricket plays along in the background, but Serkinís unwavering drive and energy and total command of the work hits the spot. I can easily see how some would find his take too austere or hard, but I love it. Sviatoslav Richterís 1986 Amsterdam recording manages to mix both individuality and directness in equal measure. Should the at times lumbering tempi and playing work as well as they do? No Ė but they do. Similarly, Stephen Kovacevichís lauded recording delivers the goods in a similar approach (more similar to Serkin, that is).
Other fine performances include Brendelís digital studio recording of the work (I havenít heard the other two), Mieczyslaw Horszowskiís take, and Robert Silvermanís hard-hitting, unsentimental take.
Were I to group them into categories, the top tier would include Serkin, Mustonen, and Richter. The next rung down would include Kuerti, Anderszewski, Kovacevich, Anda, and Brendel. After that some good ones would be Arrau, Horszowski, and Silverman.
Less compelling recordings for me (for various reasons) include Schnabel, Ashkenazy, Heisser, Perl, Pludermacher, Pollini (good, but somehow disappointing), and Yokoyama (not up to snuff). Iíve never quite got into the Diabellis as much as the sonatas, but Iím slowly trying to rectify that.