A lilting Alberti bass, legato slurs and the marking dolce lead us down a tender path. The sforzandi are emphasized but never jabbed. The theme is distributed among three voices, and a bit of a search may be required to find its exact hiding place. Sweetness gives way to untamed power. Harmony, not melody, is the focus, presented in driving scales.
An element of the original theme in measure six an accented chord being triggered by the downbeat is intact here, made even fiercer by scalar writing in stretto, often ending with a ferocious sforzando at the very top.
A treble of arpeggiated triplets continues the sense of compelling motion. The theme appears now in left-hand chords alternating between the bass and treble clefs. Meshed to that is the color change from forte to piano, which sharply highlights the musical idea — f to p , lioness to lamb, again and again. The finale of the variation is one direct descent to C minor.
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There is something about beginning and ending each variation in the primary key that roots us and leaves us satisfied. The few moments of piano are gone. Beethoven is in full military outfit, advancing the musical sweep of rich treble chords triggered by forceful triplets in the bass.
My Henle score offers too much fingering and a few sleight-of-hand solutions to navigating the arpeggios — unnecessary and unwanted. Again Beethoven uses the material exactly as stated in the prior variation, but reversing treble for bass. The heaviness of the chords at the bottom reinforces the overall sense of power and drama.
Having the chords derive from the downbeat, and play off it, calls us back to the opening measures where this is a major element. Octaves are born of the triplets before them.
The harmonic progressions are represented in five-note scale patterns. Beethoven creates a world in eight bars. I cannot bypass the addition here of tenuto on the final note of each scale. I take it to mean a kind of emphasis, but one that alters the timing of the notes in the opposite hand, pushing the music ahead not unlike a tied note. Color and a sense of foreboding are created by the rumble of broken chords in pianissimo.
Variations (32) on an original… | Details | AllMusic
Even later, when Beethoven heard the daughter of the piano maker Streicher playing it, he failed to recognize it! By choosing the key of C minor, at least one can believe that Beethoven was serious when composing this work. In every case, it reveals Beethoven as Hero. From the powerful and somewhat painful opening chords, the transition through the lyrical middle sections in major key, and finally to the stormy and dark finish, Beethoven explores not only the range and color the piano could provide as an instrument, but also shows us the possibilities of every imaginable technique of playing piano.
These 32 Variations bring us both unity and variety in one breath. Yue Chu.
Variations (32) on an original theme for piano in C minor, WoO 80
The sound is so much richer, more variable! To me, it is immediately obvious that the piano compositions from the classic and pre-classic period were conceived for such instruments. Also, it is extremely hard to reproduce some aspects of these compositions on a modern piano. The former bears the richness in sound of the historic fortepiano, along with an impressive but not overloaded interpretation by the pianist.
In short: I would not want to miss either of these two recordings!
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