BEETHOVEN: 'Eroica' Variations / 32 Variations, WoO 80

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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)

Fifteen Variations and a Fugue in E Flat Major, Op. 35 (Eroica Variations)

Thirty-two Variations in C Minor, WoO 80 Six Variations in F Major, Op. 34

Six Variations on "Nei cor pi?? non mi sento", WoO 70

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in the Rhineland town of Bonn in 1770, theeldest surviving son of Johann van Beethoven and Maria Magdalena Keverich. Hisgrandfather, after whom he was named, had joined the chapel of the Elector ofCologne in 1733 as a singer, marrying in the same year. In 1761 he becameKapellmeister, a position he held until his death in 1773.

Kapellmeister Ludwig van Beethoven had been unfortunate in his marriage. Hiswife became incurably addicted to drink, and was for many years confined in aconvent asylum. The only surviving son of the marriage, Johann van Beethoven,the composer's father, was trained as a musician, but was never able to matchthe ability of his father, later preferring to follow his mother's example, acourse of action that soured the composer's childhood and brought earlyresponsibility for two younger brothers, an obligation that Beethoven continuedto fill in his own way in later life.

Beethoven's early career as a musician was in the service of the Archbishopof Cologne, as a player of the violin and viola, as deputy organist to histeacher, Gottlob Neefe, as harpsichordist in the theatre, and, above all, as apotential virtuoso of the keyboard. In 1787 he travelled to Vienna, hoping totake lessons from Mozart, but was recalled to Bonn when his mother becameseriously ill, the journey served no purpose but to incur debt, as theArchbishop-Elector was later to point out.

It was possibly through the young Count Waldstein that it was decided thatBeethoven should return to Vienna, where he might study with Haydn, who hadvisited Bonn on his first journey to England and been entertained by theelectoral orchestra on his return. In November 1792 Beethoven set out forVienna, with introductions from Count Waldstein that were to stand him in goodstead. He took lessons from Haydn, later claiming to have learned nothing, andfrom Albrechtsberger and the distinguished court composer Antonio Salieri.

Waldstein saw him as a successor to Mozart in the closely related andcomplementary fields of composition and virtuoso performance. His foresight wasjustified.

It has been customary to divide Beethoven's career into three periods, early,middle and late, or into four, it we are to include the even earlier years inBonn. The piano sonatas reflect this view of his development as a composer, andincidentally mirror technical developments in the pianoforte itself, as do thesets of variations exactly contemporary with the sonatas, the first of theselatter written in 1782 and the last published in 1823.

Variations on well known operatic arias were long popular with audiences andperformers, often in improvisation. Beethoven's Six Variations on the duet 'Neicor pib non mi sento', from Paisiello's opera La molinara, were writtenand published in Vienna in 1795. The opera itself, originally under the titleL'amor contrastato, was first performed in Paisiello's native city of Naples in1789 and in 1790, under the title of La molinara, in Vienna, where thecomposer enjoyed great popularity. The opera was performed at the Vienna CourtTheatre in 1794 and there were further performances the following summer at theKarnthnerthor Theatre. Franz Wegeler, in his reminiscences of Beethoven,recounts the story of the composer attending a performance of La molinara

with a lady who was very dear to him. During the duet 'Nei cor pib non mi sento'his companion remarked that she had once had a set of variations on the duet,but had lost it. Beethoven that night wrote his own variations, sending them tothe lady the next morning, with the inscription "Variazioni, etc, perdutepar la -- ritrovate par Luigi van Beethoven." The simple G major melody isfollowed by a first variation of right-hand semiquavers, followed by a versionthat provides a running semiquaver left-hand accompaniment to a variation of themelody. An arpeggiated third variation leads to a minor version of the theme anda return to the major in a varied rhythm. The final variation in semiquavers hasan Alberti bass accompaniment and a modicum of hand-crossing as it nears aconclusion.

The Six Variations on an Original Theme, Opus 34, were written in 1802and dedicated to Princess Odescalchi, who before her marriage to the Pressburgnobleman Prince Innocenzo d'Erba-Odescalchi, had been, as Countess BabetteKeglevich, a pupil of Beethoven. Other works written for her were the E flatPiano Sonata, Op. 7, the Variations 'La stessa, la stessima' and the FirstPiano Concerto. The Adagio F major theme is followed by an elaboratelydecorated D major variation, an Allegro excursion into the key of B flat, a Gmajor Allegro and an E flat Tempo di Menuetto. The fifth variation is a March inC minor and the final variation starts as a compound rhythm Allegretto, leadingto an Adagio that the composer's pupil Ries claims he was compelled to playthrough seventeen times, before the cadenza satisfied his teacher, whodisplayed, in these lessons, an unusual degree of patience.

The Eroica Variations, Fifteen Variations and a Fugue on anOriginal Theme, Op. 35, were written in 1802 and published the followingyear in Leipzig. The work was finally dedicated to Mozart's former pupil, CountMoritz Lichnowsky, brother of Beethoven's generous patron Prince Karl Lichnowsky,after an originally intended dedication to the Abbe Stadler. The theme appearselsewhere, in the finale of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, in the ballet TheCreatures of Prometheus and in a Contredanse. As in the symphony, the themeappears first in skeletal form, an opening chord followed by the bass-line only.

It then appears in two parts, the right hand adding a simple counterpoint. Theright hand now takes the original bass-line, crossed intermittently by the lefthand, giving an impression of three voices. This is followed by a version aquattro, with the original bass now the upper part, and this leads to thefamiliar theme itself. Beethoven stressed to his publishers, Breitkopf andHartel, the originality of the two sets of variations, Opus 34 and Opus 35, thefirst not least in its varieties of key for each variation. The first of the Eroicavariations, which might, had the composer's intentions been followed, havebeen better known as the Prometheus Variations, offers a semiquaver right-handversion of the theme, followed by a triplet semiquaver version, including abrief cadenza. An abrupt third variation leads to a running semiquaver bass,with right-hand chords, and to a brief syncopated fifth variation. The themeemerges with greater clarity in the sixth variation, while the seventh is acanon at the octave. The hand-crossing of the eighth variation is succeeded by aversion in which the bass of the theme is heard in lower register grace notesand a division of labour in the tenth. The following three variations exploreother keyboard sonorities, before the penultimate E flat minor fourteenth andthe ornamented Largo of the E flat major fifteenth. The fugal subject, the bassof the theme, is announced in the second voice, answered in the upper voice, andfollowed by a third bass entry. The fugal texture is unusually interrupted by apassage that leads to the return of the full theme and its subsequentelaboration in a brilliant conclusion.

The Thirty-two Variations on an Original Theme, W
Item number 8550676
Barcode 4891030506763
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Classical
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Jando, Jeno
Jando, Jeno
Composers Beethoven, Ludwig van
Beethoven, Ludwig van
Producers Toth, Ibolya
Toth, Ibolya
Disc: 1
6 Variations on Duet "Nel cor piu non mi sento" by
1 15 Variations and a Fugue in E flat major, Op. 35,
2 32 Variations in C minor, WoO 80
3 6 Variations in F major, Op. 34
4 6 Variations on Duet "Nel cor piu non mi sento" by
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