This powerful work dates from 1806, the year of the more lyrical Violin Concerto and Fourth Symphony. In form it resembles the famous Chaccone from Bach's D minor Partita for violin, with a short thematic fragment given equally terse variations. Beethoven's theme, however, is even shorter, a series of chords with a couple of runs thrown in, and there is a smaller range of emotion. The music is moody, or stormy, or melancholy; there is little light even in the brief major-key section (Variations 12-16). The work requires considerable virtuosity, with each variation presenting a different technical challenge so that it almost seems like a set of etudes. However, it is the sometimes violent emotional content that dominates. In the extended final variation the music at last finds its way into song, but it is a somber song which fades away with two quiet chords at the end.
(All Music Guide)