Use of Variation Technique from Haydn Through Rachmaninoff

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2012

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According to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, variation is “a form founded on repetition, and as such an outgrowth of a fundamental musical and rhetorical principle, in which a discrete theme is repeated several or many times with various modifications.” This dissertation shows how selected composers treated variation technique differently. Mozart’s Nine Variations in D major, K. 573 is one of Mozart’s later variations. Beethoven’s Variations and Fugue for Piano in E flat major, Op. 35 is a set of fifteen variations ending with a fugue finale, a departure from earlier variation forms. Schubert created the first example of fantasy variation in the slow movement of the Wanderer Fantasy D. 760 (1822). The Piano Concerto in C minor, K. 491 by Mozart has the form of a theme with variations in the third movement, an Allegro. The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op.43 by Sergei Rachmaninoff is written for solo piano and symphony orchestra, closely resembling a piano concerto. The Serious Variations, Op. 54 by Mendelssohn has a wide range of pianistic textures and figures and virtuoso treatment of the theme. The Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13 is a set of etudes for solo piano by Robert Schumann. It began in 1834 as a theme and sixteen variations, plus a further variation on an entirely different theme. The Andante with Variations in F minor, Hob. 17/6 by Haydn is a set of double variations; the first theme is in F minor and the second theme in F major. Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C minor, WoO 80 has a chaconne form which is an unusual compositional style in the classic era. The work starts with the eight-bar theme that features contrary motion and growing harmonic tension. The pieces discussed above were presented in three recitals on April 23, 2008, February 7, 2009, and October 22, 2012. Compact disc recordings of these recitals are available in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland.

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