Время написания: 1819 - март-апрель 1823 гг.
Посвящено: Antonie Brentano
Var. I. Alla Marcia maestoso
Var. II. Poco Allegro
Var. III. L'istesso tempo
Var. IV. Un poco piu vivace
Var. V. Allegro vivace
Var. VI. Allegro ma non troppo e serioso
Var. VII. Un poco piu Allegro
Var. XIII. Poco vivace
Var. IX. Allegro pesante e risoluto
Var. X. Presto
Var. XI. Allegretto
Var. XII. Un poco piu moto
Var. XIII. Vivace
Var. XIV. Grave e maestoso
Var. XV. Presto scherzando
Var. XVI. Allegro
Var. XVIII. Poco moderato
Var. XIX. Presto
Var. XX. Andante
Var. XXI. Allegro con brio
Var. XXII. Allegro molto (alla "Notte e giorno faticar" di Mozart)
Var. XXIII. Allegro assai
Var. XXIV. Fughetta. Andante
Var. XXV. Allegro
Var. XXVII. Vivace
Var. XXVIII. Allegro
Var. XXIX. Adagio ma non troppo
Var. XXX. Andante, sempre cantabile
Var. XXXI. Largo, molto espressivo
Var. XXXII. Fuga. Allegro - Poco adagio
Var. XXXIII. Tempo die Menuetto moderato
The Diabelli variations are Beethoven's last major piano piece and his most extensive variation cycle. He started the composition in 1819 but interrupted it for the Missa solemnis and his last three piano sonatas until early 1823.
The waltz theme was written by publisher and composer Anton Diabelli. Beethoven derogatively called it a "Schusterfleck", meaning a plain model that was easy to sequence. The structure's simplicity, on the other hand, offered more room for variations which finally proved an advantage. One year after Beethoven's 33 variations had been published as an independent piece, Diabelli published a collection of 50 variations of the same waltz composed by himself in early June 1824. For the new collection, ordered alphabetically by the authors' names, Diabelli asked 50 Austrian authors, particularly from Vienna, to contribute to the collection, among them Czerny, Schubert, Liszt, Hummel and Beethoven's patron Archduke Rudolph. On the collection's title Diabelli called the authors a "National Artists' Association". Beethoven was quite enraged about this publication and felt his piece deprived of its value.
In early May 1823 Beethoven asked his former student Ferdinand Ries to arrange for an English publisher for op. 120. However, it took until July until he sent Ries a copy for an engraving. A planned English edition of op. 120 by publishers T. Boosey & Co. never came on the market. The copy came to London too late as the piece had already been published in Vienna and an English edition did not make any sense from an economic standpoint.
The catalyst for Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, which was to be one of his last and by far the longest works for solo piano, was the request of contemporary composer and publisher Anton Diabelli, who invited 50 leading composers to submit variation sets on one of his waltzes. Beethoven, who was a master of theme and variation, made easy work of this task. Despite submissions by other equally famous composers (including Schubert and Liszt), Beethoven's work clearly stood out above the rest. Diabelli himself was to have compared it to Bach's Goldberg Variations. The theme and 32 variations run the gamut of varying temperaments, tempi, and emotions, providing a challenge to pianists' technique and listeners' attention.
Few pianists have been as consistent and uniform in their interpretation of Beethoven as Sviatoslav Richter. His approach is unshakably clean and unsullied by over-romanticized and over-pedaled styles. This recording of the Diabelli Variations is no different; Richter is quite true to the score and is able to make splendid and abrupt changes in character with no apparent effort. Many of Richter's recorded works are from live concerts made in countless venues. Depending on the instrument he was given and the acoustics in the room, this unfortunately yielded sound quality that is less than ideal, as is the case on this album. The piano itself appears to be of poor quality; the upper registers are substantially out of tune and the bass has no depth or resonance. Still, Richter's technique and sublime musicianship make it all worthwhile.
(Mike D. Brownell, Rovi, answers.com)
In 1819, the music publisher Anton Diabelli decided to raise money for the family members of soldiers killed in recent wars. He wrote a theme in hopes of inducing some of the leading composers of the day to contribute variations, planning to publish the entire set . In all, he sent his melody to 51 composers in Austria, one of whom was Beethoven (another was Schubert). Beethoven's initial inclination was to turn down the project, though eventually he submitted a variation. But the composer soon became intrigued at the prospect of writing a larger set of variations on Diabelli's theme. In the end, he turned out a nearly hour-long work with more variations than any other of his works in the form. This composition makes a worthy companion piece for Bach's mighty Goldberg Variations.
Diabelli's theme is lively and rather simple, and while many have derided it as bland and even stupid, it does have a rather naive charm, with its little turns and its rhythmic drive. This was just the kind of simple theme that had inspired the composer's variation thinking in the past. One example is Beethoven's Seven Variations on "Kind, willst du schlafen," WoO 75, from 1799. He seemed to regard such weak or trite melodic creations as skeletal outlines whose notes begged to be infused with personality and color.
There are several key features to the method Beethoven used in fashioning the Diabelli Variations. For one thing, he tended to retain in each variation some aspect of the previous one. Some have argued that each item is arranged almost randomly, that they could be reordered to make the work more effective. Yet one finds both delightful commentaries on the variation just gone by and an overarching structure to the whole set. The first variation, marked Alla Marcia, is a deliberately pompous and parodistic take on the theme. It is in a slow tempo; the succeeding variations, with a mixture of fast and slow, gradually work toward a climactic release reached in Variation 10. After that, the music relaxes for a time. Other patterns of peaks and valleys are discernible, with the greatest of the climactic episodes occurring with the fugue near the end of the work.
The work's final moments share, in Joseph Kerman's words, the "visionary aura" of the variations that concude the Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor. Other noteworthy variations include No. 14, marked Grave e maestoso, a most profound entry and one of the longest, lasting around four minutes. Both Variations 23 and 24 are powerful panels, too, the former a brilliant, energetic creation and the latter divulging a somewhat Bach-like character. Several times Beethoven explores chromatic harmonies that seem far beyond even Schubert's prescient works of the 1820s.
For all its inspired artistry the work has typically proven difficult for listeners. Like the "Hammerklavier" Sonata, No. 29, it is both long and extremely concentrated. Some publishers and pianists have tampered with the score in an effort to make it more listenable, but their efforts tend to weaken what is a somewhat intellectual masterpiece.
This work was first published in 1823 in Vienna, bearing a dedication to Antonie Brentano (sometimes believed to be the "Immortal Beloved" of an earlier phase of the composer's life). A typical performance of this composition lasts about 50 to 58 minutes.
(All Music Guide)