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Beethoven, L. van: Variations, Vol. 1 - Op. 34, WoO 64, 69, 70, 72, 78, 79, 80

Giuseppe Bruno, Piano

2020 ‐ 65:55
Original Audio at 88.2 kHz * 24 bits


Track list

Variations in C Minor on an original theme, WoO 80 [32]
Variations in F Major on a Swiss song, WoO 64 [6]
Variations in A Major on 'Quant'e più bello' by Paisiello, WoO 69 [9]
Variations in G Major on 'Nel cor piu non mi sento' by Paisiello, WoO 70 [6]
Variations in C Major from Richard Coeur-de-Lion, WoO 72 [8]
Variations in F Major on an original theme, Op. 34 [6]
Variations in D Major on 'Rule, Britannia', WoO 79 [5]
Variations in C Major on 'God Save the King', WoO 78 [7]

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Theme and variations was one of the preferred forms in Renaissance keyboard music, largely disappearing in the late 1600s/early 1700s and returning with renewed energy in the second half of the eighteenth century. Beethoven‘s creative process followed recent or current trends, giving way to an extraordinary number of sets of variations, beginning in the Bonn years and continuing throughout his life. Many of the early sets, written before the turn of the century, consist of highly original variations on arias from popular operas of the time. Arias by composers such as Righini, Ditters, Gretry, Paisiello, Salieri, Sussmayr, and Winters become the premises for most of the early sets. These tunes were all the rage at the end of the 1700s, though their popularity faded as the new century began. Other sets are based on tunes Beethoven deemed worthwhile, such as a march by Dressler, a Russian dance from a ballet by Wranitzky, or a Swiss song. In these early sets, Beethoven already displays original traits, often challenging compositional norms and presenting distinctive technical ideas. A few of these works have remained in the repertoire, particularly the variations on themes by Paisiello; others have fallen into oblivion. However, in recent times these sets have been resurrected and offered in both performances and recordings. All are accompanied by a catalog number WoO (“Werke ohne Opus” – works without opus number).
With the new century, Beethoven began to publish some of the variations that he committed to paper. Two sets, Op. 34 and 35, are particularly noteworthy. Opus 34, written in 1802 on an original theme, is based on a series of variations that move tonally by descending thirds, often producing striking harmonic effects. Op. 35, also completed in 1802, is based on a theme that Beethoven used in the final movement of the Eroica Symphony, which would be completed the following year. Virtuosic elements are in full display throughout the work, which ends with an astounding fugue on the main theme. A few years later, in 1806, Beethoven completed a set of thirty-two variations in C minor, today catalogued as WoO80. The composer apparently was not fond of the work, but was probably compelled to publish it without opus number for monetary reasons. Based on baroque archetypes (the chromatic bass-line, and the typical chaconne-like writing in 3/4), the set has become one of Beethoven’s most popular works for piano.
Some fifteen years later, Beethoven returned to the form of theme and variations. Antonio Diabelli, a successful publisher and composer in early-nineteenth-century Vienna, challenged some of the most important composers of the time to write one variation on a waltz of his own composition. The goal was to publish a set of fifty variations on the theme. Many composers obliged (among them Czerny, Hummel, Schubert, and even eleven-year-old Liszt). Legend has it that Beethoven refused on the premise that the waltz was too trivial. But when Diabelli persisted and offered him a conspicuous sum to write an entire set, Beethoven completed twenty-three of them in just a few days – “in a merry freak,” as Czerny put it. It took two more years for the set to be completed. Today, the Thirty-three Variations on a Theme by Diabelli, Op. 120 are considered the pinnacle of Beethoven’s pianistic achievements, and one of the most important works in the piano repertoire.
Giuseppe Bruno challenges himself in the complete variations for piano by Beethoven, divided into four albums. His playing is secure and poised, and his interpretation is based on a detailed reading of the sources.
The recordings was made by producer Alessandro Simonetto using two historical pairs of Brüel & Kjær microphones matched with more modern Prism Sound pres and converters equipments.


OnClassical - OC20102B
Beethoven, L. van: Variations, Vol. 1 - Op. 34, WoO 64, 69, 70, 72, 78, 79, 80
Giuseppe Bruno, Piano

Production No.: 263 / 2020
Catalog: OC20102B
EAN / UPC: 0/634065038540
No. album(s): 1

Recorded at Saletta acustica 'Eric James', Pove del Grappa, 2020

An OnClassical production, © 2020

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