Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Brahms Piano Variations

As I had indicated in an earlier post, I have been listening to the solo piano works of Brahms. I've gotten to the two CD's that feature his theme and variations work.

What I've really enjoyed are the two books of variations based on a theme of Paganini. This is partially because one of my favorite classical works is Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. This latter work is one of his most popular and well-known works, and the theme that is used by Rachmaninoff was earlier used by Brahms.

There are twenty-eight variations in all, divided into two books, each with the theme followed by fourteen variations. Each variation is relatively short, the longest lasting a bit over two minutes. Apparently these are quite challenging works to perform. I found them very enjoyable.

Also on this disc are the Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, Op. 24.

Classical Connect - Free classical music online

There are some twenty variations on this theme.

The second disc of variations (the fourth in the CD collection) contains two sets of variations (Op. 21, No. 1 and 2) on an original theme. I found these to be uninspiring. I simply could not get into them at all. I suspect more time with them would help alleviate my ambivalence, but I will admit that while Brahms is one of my favorite composers, not everything he composed floats my boat.

Finally, on this CD is Brahms Op. 9, Variations on a Theme of Robert Schumann. These I like much better, so I often would just skip ahead to these. There are sixteen variations in this work, again rather short, the longest being a little over two minutes.

Both CD's are recordings of Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy. I haven't heard these works performed by anyone else, but I can't find anything but brilliant playing of these works. There are several YouTube videos of his recordings, which are more artistic than the average video. I close with one of them, some of the Paganini variations.