Recorded on 11/08/2009, uploaded on 12/22/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Beethoven's Diabelli Variations,
[December 2008 - March 2009]
A supple grace note attends the upbeat to the waltz. The music expands quickly
from piano to forte with pointed bass notes and a dashing sforzando at the
second beat of measure 3. Portamento chords on top and that misplaced sf
in the bass give us a taste of opera buffa - something off-kilter: a ballerina
in galoshes. At measure 5 Beethoven starts over a step higher and copies the
crescendo from the opening bars. Immediately the music speaks to an iron
rhythm, basic harmonic changes and sparse melody. From measures 8 to 9 a
two-note slur written across the bar line and one of those dramatic sforzandi
for good measure add more physicality to the introduction even as it fades
delicately to piano at the phrase's end.
The second half of the theme (each variation is in the form of two parts and
each part will be repeated) begins in the dominant of C major, the material a
replica of the first section. The expressive articulations - portamento, sf,
the slurs, the dots - and the rich dynamic scene make us anxious to know where
the plot will lead.
Alla Marcia maestoso, C (4/4)
Rhythm and harmony are perfectly wedded and laid out as a blueprint for the
work. Beethoven might embellish later, but here he is about framework,
simplicity and transparency. The key of C is explored extensively without
suggesting its minor. Working within a small context, Beethoven manages to push
the limits of harmony and forge a relentless rhythmic landscape. The performer
should have a spine of steel in order to portray the March as it should be. But
that said, there is a lingering sense of comedy from the Theme. As in comic
acting, the performer who can play it straight and deliver the lines seriously
may be best able to hint at the music's irony.
Poco allegro, 3/4
The lightness and sweetness of Variation II come as a welcome relief.
Eighth-note chords alternate, dance and play off each hand, the melody a
suggestion at the top of each treble chord. Later, beginning at measure 21, the
interest lies more in the middle voices. The highly chromatic writing leads to
many quick resolutions until the ultimate one back to tonic. Intense dynamic
markings run through Variation I - a long crescendo culminating in a subito
p, for instance - high drama. Here the p backdrop frees
up the mood and keeps things light-hearted.
L'istesso tempo, 3/4
Immediately noticeable are the abundance of slurs calling for legato and lyricism.
Continuing in a gentle vein, Variation III lilts in 3/4, sings and climbs its
way upwards in a series of overlapping voices. The bass initiates the melody at
measure 16 and continues an interesting pattern at measure 20, a murmuring of
eighths. Four voices make up the chords as well as flowing lines of eighth
notes the performer must try to distinguish wherever possible. A crescendo
beginning at measure 24 swells in the span of seven measures ending sweetly in
a decrescendo to piano.
Un poco piu vivace, 3/4
The music sprouts organically from the previous variation as if there were a
bit more to say. Looking at the page, you might think Beethoven was writing for
string quartet as the lines intercept and intertwine - legato embedded in every
phrase. The first half of the variation begins softly and builds to forte
chords in staccato just at the double bar. A new start in the bass line is an
inversion of the opening measures. At measure 18 the bass in accompanimental
mode affects a brief pastoral influence over the music before returning to its
basic role in strict four-part harmony.
Allegro vivace, 3/4
The upbeat is the message. The bass starts with two quick eighths leading to
the downbeat (a dotted half note) and initiating a pattern that sustains the
full 16 measures of the first section of the variation. The eighths in p
emit a liveliness that energizes the variation. A crescendo at measure 12 and
the doubling of time bring the music home with graceful force. The beautiful subito
p in the final measures adds a quality of tenderness as well.
Section B: Two impish eighth notes jump to the downbeat again, this time in E
minor (relative of G, we're not far afield). But at measure 24 Beethoven takes
us through F major, D flat major and uses diminished chords as upbeats only to
steer us back to C major by measure 29 and the final measures.
Allegro ma non troppo e serioso, 3/4
Variation V was energetic; VI has the engine of a Maserati. Dynamic trills in ff
land on a sf downbeat and the bass apes the gesture immediately.
Thus is set up a canonic feel, back and forth of the two voices. Without adding
to speed Beethoven displays great power via motion, direction and the sustained
use of trills. The pianist must summon all the sound she can in trilling and
keep the rhythm, again, as strict as possible. The combination of rhythm,
movement and sound results in firepower. Then, at measure 15, a dolce p appears
as a sublime contrast and the end of the phrase releases itself like the hint
of a spring breeze. The first section of the variation began at the top and
flurried down in arpeggiated figures after the dramatic trills. B starts at a
low G and flies up the keyboard, answered by the right hand. When the two
voices merge at measure 24 a crescendo poco a poco allows the
music to build steadily and climax at measure 30. But once again the air smells
of honeysuckle at 31, and we are led sweetly home.
Un poco piu allegro, 3/4
A dotted eighth and 16th lead to a release of triplets. This rhythmic pattern
characterizes the opening and follows through to the end. The bass is made up
of octaves, often accented with sforzandi. Dotted rhythms are
innately jaunty and here they lend a dancelike quality to the variation. Triplets
as well are the epitome of motion. Like characters in a novel, the variations
seem to find a reason to depend less and less on the theme. The father has
produced new offspring. We await each developmental stage with delight.
Poco vivace, 3/4
The tenderness of the variation is palpable - the melody in long notes, the
bass coming up to meet it in eighths, sempre legato, the
harmonies, major to minor, melting one into the next, producing an emotionally
sweeping result. The lack of dotted rhythms, accents, sforzandi
and sudden dynamics allows the music to dip, rise and flow, taking the lush
harmony with it. Long crescendi-diminuendi replace subito
fortes and pianos, elongating the line, allowing it to
Allegro pesante e resoluto, C (4/4)
A spartan movement, Variation IX clears the palette. Discipline dominates in
the staccato two-note figures accompanied by a grace note which functions as
other than a lithe embellishment from the theme. Here even the adornments are
severe. The effect is of a non-frilly frill. The second half of the variation
allows for more p's and pp's. A lengthy crescendo
beginning at measure 23 emerges from a more fragile place than the ensuing sforzandi
and fortissimi. Beethoven stretches dynamics in both directions
so that a delicate pp feels like an oasis amid the score's harsh
Staccato octaves in the left hand spill down the keyboard accompanied by broken
chords in the right, all under the marking sempre staccato and pp.
At measure 17 a long crescendo begins and reaches ff at measure
30. In 32 a drop to pp occurs, with the bass notes surging up the
scale in opposition to the opening. Chords replace octaves later, with equal
speed and force. A grand trill in the bass accompanies the running chords to
the final measure.
What emerges is a sense of exaggeration that serves the music well. Presto
doesn't merely mean play very fast, it tells you to fly off the page and take
the drapes with you. Pianissimo doesn't merely mean to play very
softly but rather to search for the most tender, fragile sound that exists. Fortissimo?
An aggressor army comes to mind. This music is to be played with other than a
cautious heart. This Presto variation should leave the audience
breathless. The jagged chords near the end of the movement should shock at some
visceral level. Beethoven's iron grasp of structure and rhythm allows him a
freedom the performer is obliged to express - at either extreme.
Variation XI is immediately tender. The triplet as upbeat, reiterated in the
middle voice and the bass, has a pulling effect to the downbeat made more
powerful by each repetition. The poignancy is heightened at measures 8-16 by
diminished chords, brief resolutions to minor and a long crescendo. Just before
the double bar an arrival at G major chords, in staccato and p,
recalls the gentleness of the opening. It seems that the upbeat of the theme
will be transformed many times. The middle voice initiates the triplet pattern
in the second half of the variation, the lines interweaving effortlessly. Again
the diminished chords have the strongest pull, with the intensity of the
triplets creating a stretto effect. Then by measure 26 the
dynamics in p and the simple V7-I echo the beginning's naïveté,
clearing the palette for what lies ahead.
Un poco piu moto, 3/4
Beethoven's tempo markings often speak to the previous variation, thus offering
a sense of their relationship. He is in control of the individual events inside
the variation as well as the structure as a whole, not unlike an architect who
sees the building on a grand scale but considers each window and how it will
reflect light and movement. Here the flowing eighth notes never cease. What
begins as a single line builds to include chordal writing and intense harmonic
resolutions inside long crescendi. The sudden p dolce at measure
14 is a reminder of Variation XI and its always-delicate return to the opening
bars. Measure 19 intensifies with chromatic harmony and a swirling, insistent
bass line arriving at forte at measure 28. The fp
at 29 and long pedal point on C give the effect of a grand organ.
Minor chords in A, dotted rhythms, martial effect: then four quarter beats of
rest. The rests proving as prevalent as the notes provides a dramatic, spare
and highly rhythmic quality to the variation. We could easily be in a symphonic
scherzo movement, the chords somewhat imitative of strings, winds
and brass. Throughout the Diabelli Variations Beethoven suggests
orchestral and chamber music writing with the piano performing all roles. He
knew how protean the piano can be, with its ability to express light and dark
with a single touch. Dotted chords continue and weave through harmonies: V7 of
V, quick suggestions of the minor, and an arrival at B-flat octaves at the
double bar, a surprising how-do-you-do. Beethoven will usher us home to C major
within a few measures but only through the succinctest pathways.
Grave e maestoso, C (4/4)
A double-dotted eighth and two 64th notes are reminiscent of Variation XIII.
But such a rhythm in grave is quite something else again. Slow
and majestic, the music has an almost stubborn timing that must never waver.
Sixty-fourth notes even at a slow tempo do lead to the downbeat and serve to
propel the music forward. A crescendo and abrupt p
from measures 2-3 are repeated in measures 4-5, this time arriving at fp,
one of Beethoven's pet markings. Forte dissolving instantly to piano
without benefit of a decrescendo can be tricky. One must finesse
the pedal to achieve the effect. Leonard Shure, who was a master at such magic,
may have learned it from Artur Schnabel. The piano is capable of a suppleness
amenable to Beethoven's aims. As in the previous variations, the opening motif
is intensified, voice upon voice, and long crescendi add to the
dramatic build-up. Instead of a subito piano or fp,
measure 13 culminates in a true f and the same again from that
point to a satisfying conclusion.
Presto scherzando, 2/4
What a delight! - the release of energy pent up from the slow, serious lines of
Variation XIV. Sempre pp and staccato, two eighths
and a quarter dance like sprites. At measure 8 quarters slow the motion under a
long slur and accompanying crescendo, stretch the timing and
respond to the opening scamper. We have essentially two characters, one frisky,
one stern. More likely we have two sides of Beethoven's character as he reveals
himself in facets of the writing. He is nothing if not a nature in
self-opposition, seeming to delight in the alarming proximity of power and
tenderness, dark and light, force and its opposite.
Allegro, C (4/4)
A glorious trill in the treble doubles as the melody while, from the bass,
16ths in octaves barrel up the keyboard. The dotted notes again imbue the
variation with a hyper-rhythmic, martial quality even as a long crescendo
from measure 4 to the double bar creates a smoother, slurred line. The melody
usually sits atop the chords, while engaging inner voices seduce our attention.
The combination of trills and octaves produces a physicality that we hear in
Looking at the page, one senses a kinship with Variation XVI. Throughout the
work the performer finds relationships by virtue of pattern, form, harmony,
melody, timing, and similar uniting factors. The running 16ths trickle down
from the top now in intervals of a 6th (not octaves as before), with the dotted
rhythms occurring in the bass rather than in the soprano. Turning
material on its head is one way to vary the landscape without straying too far
from its origins. The music most differs from its sister variation in the
dynamic directions given by the composer. The upbeat forte leads
to an fp and begins a pattern of extreme changes. Forte
to a subito piano and back suggests distance and time, the forte
portraying immediacy and the sudden pianos suggesting a far-away quality. Gone
are the long crescendi that came before. The dynamics also structure the 16ths
into groups which can focus and direct the line. By the final measures, the
music reaches a true and lasting forte.
Poco moderato, 3/4
Beethoven writes p dolce above the opening measures where the legato
writing perfectly suits his instructions. The material is composed of snippets,
fragments of legato eighth notes that imply the theme, but ever
so slightly. At measure 8 a snaky line begins in unison - soprano
and bass - ascending in a winding path to a high point only to drop suddenly to
p and two delicate g's in staccato.
At the double bar (which always signifies the beginning of the second half of
each variation) the opening notes are mimicked, but now center around G, the
dominant. As in earlier writing, the music suggests an Italian sixth, resolves
from diminished chords to temporary minors, but in the end reaches its
steadfast destination of C. C major as a backdrop allows for much creative
straying and experimenting with a more exotic harmony: a basic black dress with
touches of color and diamonds perhaps.
A quick tempo in 3/4, well-placed sforzandi and descending
arpeggiated intervals provide a burst of adrenalin after the legato
lines of Variation XVIII. The pp at measure 8 offers a tender
moment and the crescendo at measure 12 quickly inflates and
deflates by the first ending. A point of interest: the tying of eighths over
the bar line at which point the opposite hand supplies the downbeat. To tie a
note is to hold it but not repeat it. Here the alternating of ties first in one
hand and then the other accentuates the rhythmic pulse and propels the musical
line. By the second ending the figures are inverted, intervals climbing instead
of falling as in the beginning of the variation. There is a visceral sense of amassing,
building, descending in order to start again, reaching a climax at the top of a
crescendo at measure 31. The final measures release and taper to
Slow, soft, prayer-like, Variation XX is an oasis. Beethoven invites us to
rest, reflect and breathe. The bass begins simply, middle voices entering in
turn, with the soprano far off at measure 18 after what seems like an age.
Dotted half notes move peacefully, almost inertly, and the dynamics of p
and pp complete the serene and expansive terrain.
Allegro con Brio, C (4/4)
Beethoven breaks the spell with four opening measures of stormy trills in ff,
a driving bass line and octave leaps. Meno Allegro at measure 5
cuts into the motion, however, and the pulse shifts from an energetic 4/4 to a
less aggressive 3/4. The former momentum dissolves into slower, more
introspective lines - slurred, legato, espressivo. Two characters emerge, one
of robust desires, and the quieter sibling who pulls back in poignant two-note
slurs. One thinks of Schumann and his dual portrayals in Davidsbündlertänze,
Carnaval and Papillons.
The performer is challenged in expressing the wild side while timing the
demure moments so that they spring naturally from one tempo to the next, or more
exactly, from one emotion to the next. The variation is successful if the
duality can appear as an organic, artless whole.
Allegro molto alla "Notte e giorno faticar" di Mozart,
A sparkling quote from Mozart's Don Giovanni opens the variation
- no more than a taste, an amuse-bouche. Perhaps Beethoven is suggesting that
Diabelli stole his theme from Mozart or is simply being a scamp. He may also be
complaining about his own labors, having had to toil night and day. The long crescendo
beginning at measure 9 from pp to ff is common to
many of the variations.
Allegro assai, C (4/4)
Rhythmic underpinnings must be made of iron in order to support the 16ths that
fly by at so dangerous a speed. The opening C major chord marked fp
operates as a powerful catalyst enabling the flow. An elongated crescendo
beginning at measure 5 is, again, a dynamic mark of the variations. The
diminished chord opening the second half heightens the intensity, and at
measure 13 jagged chords emerge from the running 16ths. The already-driving
motion hurtles to the end. The pianist's technique and emotional palette may be
pushed to its limit in this exhilarating romp.
Fughetta Andante, 3/4
A divine and simple theme starts things off. I can't explain why a melody
composed of C falling to G - E, F, D, E should seem so heavenly. I should have
answers at the ready, but don't. I'm discovering the Diabelli Variations
along with you, dear reader.
Una corda, sempre legato writes Beethoven. The soft pedal
imbues all with a fugitive sound. Sempre legato is so fitting to
the long flowing lines. The pianist begins to feel that she is playing with a
stringed instrument's bow.
Gentle eighth notes extend the theme and by measure 8 the intermingling of
voices intensifies. Luscious minor trills in the bass, fragments of 16ths and
harmonic richness enliven the fugal writing without indulging in unnecessary
The tempo Andante can be interpreted loosely, I think. After
the mad dash of Variation XXIII, taking one's time may not be a bad idea,
measure by steadfast measure.
3/8 time and leggiermente only partially define the variation.
The rhythmic pulse of 16th-note turns in the bass against marked chords in the
treble creates a bumptious character. The theme itself has its amusing side,
and here again an exaggerated pulse plays on one's sense of humor. The
performer mustn't shy away from these light-hearted moments.
While the variation begins and ends in C major, the harmony weaves
exotically through A minor, F minor, A flat major, as if in harmonic kinship
with V7 of V.
Graceful arpeggio fragments in 3/8 descend like feathers in a
breeze, to begin again in the dominant key of G. At measure 9 the melody
appears in thirds as if in scalar steps, with intensified harmonies. Subito
piano at measure 15 recalls the peaceful opening.
The second half mirrors the first, but this time the fragments ascend the
keyboard, intensifying via thirds and scalar writing, culminating again in a crescendo/subito
piano. Beethoven enjoys the long crescendo's effect
followed by a sweet and sudden resolution, the music having boiled over, thence
to "Nothing happened, rest easy."
The manic side of the variation we just departed returns. The prevalence of sf
markings adds punch and energy, despite similarities to its peaceful brother on
the opposite page. Subito f's and p's abound,
exaggerating the triple meter. The crescendo at measure 8 unexpectedly ebbs
gradually to piano via decrescendo.
The dissonances at measures 18-20 and at measures 22-24 are further
emphasized by sforzandi. As they dart by they cannot be missed. B
played against C sharp and G against A amidst otherwise tonal writing can feel
like stings - quick and raw.
Its upbeat, so important to the original theme, is accented here with sf.
Each group of two notes, while not slurred as such, gives the impression of
pairs because of the sf on each first note. The variation, thus
laid out, will reinforce the rhythmic will that Beethoven imposes throughout.
The foundation underlying each variation is so utterly forceful that the
melodic material seems to perch, as if an eagle, atop the massive structure.
At measure 16 octaves take over, and the accented duples dance ever more
wildly. The back and forth of p/f p/f seem like dramatic
characters in dialog. Once again, a tender closing relieves the tension.
Adagio ma non troppo, 3/4
Beethoven's instruction to the performer consists of p and mezza
voce. Written in C minor, the variation strikes a melancholy posture. A
mere 12 measures long, with its languid tempo and the repetition of an eighth
and 32nd figure that permeates the variation, the writing has a timeless feel.
The chords as accompaniment move to the treble in measure 7, with the quicker
figure to be found in the bass line.
Beethoven's way of working his material - whether turning it on its head,
repeating moments in both halves, manipulating shapes - creates a quite perfect
balance and sense of flow, never predictable, yet elegant and satisfying on so
Andante, sempre cantabile, C (4/4)
Sempre legato provides a clue to this variation's character.
Continuing in C minor, strands of liquid eighth notes travel in fugue-like
voices, suggestive of string-quartet writing. If the performer thinks in terms
of violins, viola and cello, she is close to the music's heart and soul.
Measure 7 is the climax of the first phrase, part of a 12-measure first
half. The second half of the beautifully lopsided variation is composed of four
measures only. Legato octaves make short hairpin gestures - a burst of sound, a
quick fall - with, finally, rich chords in eighths carrying us to the close.
Largo, molto espressivo, 9/8
Words cannot do this variation justice. How does one write about something so
beautiful, so deeply felt, so sublime? And in C minor!
Tutte le corde, sotto voce. Everything transpires in a
mysterious mist. Largo is taken literally: The 16ths are truly
slow, with the eighth notes in 9/8 as if marching towards eternity. Long lines
of melody, often in groups of 64th notes, weave, ascend, fall. The dynamics
that shape them create their context.
Measure 7 after the double bar begins in E flat Major and explores that key
until measure 11 when C minor takes hold again. E flat will become the key of
the fugue in Variation XXXII, of which this is our first taste.
Espressivo at measure 9 may represent the variation's inner
yearning. The melodic trills at measure 11 followed by subito piano
in the same measure are a crucial moment at which the writing tries to express
more, perhaps, than can be grasped. The chromatic string of 64ths at measure 8
reminds one of lace, with delicate trills and grace notes peppering the page
like images of butterflies. The fermata at the final measure
needs to be heeded.
Fuga Allegro, C (4/4)
After the held fermata, Variation XXXII can really fly out of the
gate. The theme in quarter notes is expressed in cut time and thus one feels
the measure more in two than in four. Two-note slurs in measures 3 and 4 add
lilt and expressiveness to the thematic material. Beethoven may simply be
setting up a difficult challenge for himself by redeploying his line of
repeated eighths from the original theme. As we know, Beethoven can create a
symphonic gesture from a single note.
By measure 7 the bass line has the theme, and a fully fledged fugue is
aloft. It may take a brilliant detective to find every clue to the theme's
entrances and exits. I'm attracted by other issues, mainly the forward thrust
and driving force of the quarter notes that never ease up.
Beethoven varies the theme with inversions and stretto.
Throughout these variations Beethoven has taken upward-surging lines and sent
them plunging, increasing or holding up the harmonic rhythm with dynamics as a
After a fermata at measure 117, eighth notes enter the mix,
providing motion and flexibility, as embellishing the quarter notes they
surround. A long stretch in sempre p blossoms to sempre ff
by measure 146. The huge and diminished arpeggio at 160 signals a
climactic moment which ignites the heavenly transition at 161 marked Poco
These six measures of transition leading up to Variation XXXIII transfix the
music. Measure 101: A diminished chord in ff, held for four
beats, is tied over the bar line, resolving to two chords composed of E flat,
G, B flat. Measure 103 is a stunner: E flat, G, C flat in p tied
over once again and resolving to E flat, G, G flat in piu piano.
Measure 105: D sharp, G, B natural in pp tied over the bar line
and resolving to E, G, G, all naturals at measure 106.
This eerie and succinct progression of notes creates the transition to C
major and the final variation. One times the chords with an acute sense of
their underlying rhythm, the voicing of subtle chromatic changes and firm grip
on dynamics all working to achieve a whisper from another dimension. Beethoven
gives us the material. It is the performer who must express the magic by way of
what haunts these musical lines.
Tempo di Minuetto moderato (ma non tirarsi dietro), 3/4
In other words, "but no dragging." Even if the original theme has a
hint of the vaudevillian about it, the movement as a whole epitomizes serenity
and charm: a minuet dancing with grace notes, two-note slurs in octaves,
balletic leaps, and always that flow of 16ths.... The pleasures are palpable.
Measure 34 is naïve, childlike and ecstatic - 32nds in pp
supported by staccato eighths in the bass, dispelling the
darkness. Measure 42 signals the end of the work with a slowing of the pulse,
the 64th-note turns looking towards the final measures. A long scale emanating
from the bass travels from diminuendo to pp. A forte
chord signals the end.
[Schnabel's 1937 Diabelli gets Beethoven whole - gruff,
humorous, sarcastic, triumphant. A little-heard Leonard Shure recording is
similarly titanic. Rudolf Serkin was strongly identified with the piece; the
1957 studio taping shows his ascetic angle in sharpest outline, but concerts
from 1954 and 1969 add to the picture. For those in need of a
pianist-professor, Brendel's point-making amounts to an unspoken guide and
William Kinderman includes a tutorial disc based on his Diabelli book. A
more Romantic option is Arrau's 1985 Philips (at 82!), but that's in a
14-disc brick. W.M.]
In 1819, the composer and music publisher Anton Diabelli
sent a waltz tune of his own creation to fifty of the most prominent composers
in the Austrian empire asking them each to compose a variation on the tune.
Among those included were Franz Schubert, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Carl Czerny
and Ludwig van Beethoven. He intended to publish the variations in a single
volume titled Vaterländischer Künstlerverein and use the proceeds to
help orphaned children and widows of the Napoleonic Wars. The story goes,
although the accuracy is often questioned, that upon receiving the commission,
Beethoven enthusiastically proclaimed his dislike of Diabelli's tune and that
he would refuse to write a variation. However, after learning that Diabelli
would pay a significant price for the commission, Beethoven changed his mind.
Furthermore, he decided to show how much could be done with such a banal tune.
The result was a set of 33 variations now known as the Diabelli Variations.
Diabelli published Beethoven's thirty-three variations as
volume one of Vaterländischer Künstlerverein and the fifty variations by
the fifty other composers were published as volume two. Diabelli added the
following introductory note to the publication of Beethoven's variations:
We present here to the world Variations of no ordinary type, but
a great and important masterpiece worthy to be ranked with the imperishable
creations of the old Classics-such a work as only Beethoven, the greatest
living representative of true art-only Beethoven, and no other, can produce.
The most original structures and ideas, the boldest musical idioms and
harmonies are here exhausted; every pianoforte effect based on a solid
technique is employed, and this work is the more interesting from the fact that
it is elicited from a theme which no one would otherwise have supposed capable
of a working-out of that character in which our exalted Master stands alone
among his contemporaries. The splendid Fugues, Nos. 24 and 32, will astonish
all friends and connoisseurs of serious style, as will No 2. 6, 16, 17, 23,
&c. the brilliant pianists; indeed all these variations, through the
novelty of their ideas, care in working-out, and beauty in the most artful of
their transitions, will entitle the work to a place beside Sebastian Bach's
famous masterpiece in the same form. We are proud to have given occasion for
this composition, and have, moreover, taken all possible pains with regard to
the printing to combine elegance with the utmost accuracy.
The Diabelli Variations are not only one of
Beethoven's greatest piano works, but also one of the crowning achievements of
piano music in general. Donald Tovey called it "the greatest set of
variations ever written" and Alfred Brendel described it as "the
greatest of all piano works." Only two other variation sets command the
same high respect as Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, J.S. Bach's
colossal Goldberg Variations and Johannes Brahms' Handel Variations. Together these three works represent the
epitome of the grand variation form interpreted by the greatest masters music
has ever known.
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