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Brendel's Variations

Date: 1/6/2012

Tomorrow we’ll delve into Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations with Marino Formenti, and if you join us for the pre-concert talk at 7pm, you’ll get a glimpse of how the Diabelli Variations are the gateway into Beethoven's late period. We have excellent music coming up for you in our Beethoven: The Late Great celebration. Please join us!

The last time we presented Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, it was April 2002 with Alfred Brendel in recital. Brendel has studied the Variations extensively and has said of them: “The theme has ceased to reign over its unruly offspring. Rather, the variations decide what the theme may have to offer them. Instead of being confirmed, adorned and glorified, it is improved, parodied, ridiculed, disclaimed, transfigured, mourned, stamped out and finally uplifted.” In his essay “Must Classical Music be Entirely Serious?” Brendel makes the case that the variations are a humorous work. He proposed alternative titles for each of Beethoven’s Variations. Here are my ten favorites of the thirty-three:

Variation 1: Alla Marcia maestoso
March: gladiator, flexing his muscles

Variation 3: L’istesso tempo
Confidence and nagging doubt

Variation 5: Allegro vivace
Tamed goblin

Variation 6: Allegro ma non troppo e serioso.
Trill rhetorics (Demonsthenes braving the surf)

Variation 7: Un poco più allegro.
Sniveling and stamping

Variation 9: Allegro pesante e risoluto
Industrious nutcracker

Variation 10: Presto
Giggling and neighing

Variation 15: Presto Scherzando
Cheerful Spook

Variation 21: Allegro con brio – Meno allegro – Tempo primo
Maniac and moaner

Variation 28: Allegro
The rage of the jumping-jack

Here is Brendel performing Variations 1-6.

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