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Ludwig van Beethoven

33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli, Op. 120  Play

Beth Levin Piano

Recorded on 11/08/2009, uploaded on 12/22/2009

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, Opus 120

Beth Levin

[December 2008 - March 2009]

Vivace, 3/4

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.

Variation I
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.

Variation II
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.

Variation III
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.

Variation IV
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.

Variation V
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.

Variation VI
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.

Variation VII
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.

Variation VIII
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 breathe.

Variation IX
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 colors.

Variation X
Presto, 3/4

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
Allegretto, 3/4

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.

Variation XII
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.

Variation XIII
Vivace, 3/4

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.

Variation XIV
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.

Variation XV
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.

Variation XVI
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 the Theme.

Variation XVII
C (4/4)

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.

Variation XVIII
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.

Variation XIX
Presto, 3/4

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 the end.

Variation XX
Andante, 6/4

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.

Variation XXI
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.

Variation XXII
Allegro molto alla "Notte e giorno faticar" di Mozart, C (4/4)

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.

Variation XXIII
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.

Variation XXIV
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 fussiness.

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.

Variation XXV
Allegro, 3/8

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.

Variation XXVI

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."

Variation XXVII
, 3/8

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.

Variation XXVIII
Allegro, 2/4

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.

Variation XXIX
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 many levels.

Variation XXX
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.

Variation XXXI
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.

Variation XXXII
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 structural device.

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 Adagio.

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.

Variation XXXIII
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.



33 Variations on a Waltz of Diabelli         Ludwig van Beethoven


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.

Joseph DuBose

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