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V ariation as T hematic A ctualisation : the C ase of B rahms 's O p . 9

V ariation as T hematic A ctualisation : the C ase of B rahms 's O p . 9 Variations may be classified into (a) those which show that the composer knows his theme, and (b) those which show that he does not. ( Tovey 1972 , pp. 139–40) I Generally speaking, variation sets in the Classical period are characterised primarily by embellishment and change of texture, effected so as to create a multitude of views of the same object. In the Romantic period, on the other hand, the theme is not so much decorated as reinterpreted: its harmonic and melodic constituents are exposed, then reconfigured. The change can be traced back to as early as 1802, the year in which Beethoven wrote his Eroica Variations, Op. 35, describing them to his publishers as having been composed in ‘a truly new manner’. Yet, like many generalisations, this binary opposition distorts reality to a certain extent: not all variations in Classical sets are primarily decorative, and even those that are often employ figuration and texture in subtle, strategic ways so as to foreground, elucidate and alter tonal and motivic elements of the theme. Indeed, decorative and interpretative functions can coexist. Conversely, some variations in Romantic sets are unapologetically decorative: their figuration fails to shed new light on their http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Music Analysis Wiley

V ariation as T hematic A ctualisation : the C ase of B rahms 's O p . 9

Music Analysis , Volume 31 (1) – Mar 1, 2012

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
Music Analysis © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
ISSN
0262-5245
eISSN
1468-2249
DOI
10.1111/j.1468-2249.2012.00341.x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Variations may be classified into (a) those which show that the composer knows his theme, and (b) those which show that he does not. ( Tovey 1972 , pp. 139–40) I Generally speaking, variation sets in the Classical period are characterised primarily by embellishment and change of texture, effected so as to create a multitude of views of the same object. In the Romantic period, on the other hand, the theme is not so much decorated as reinterpreted: its harmonic and melodic constituents are exposed, then reconfigured. The change can be traced back to as early as 1802, the year in which Beethoven wrote his Eroica Variations, Op. 35, describing them to his publishers as having been composed in ‘a truly new manner’. Yet, like many generalisations, this binary opposition distorts reality to a certain extent: not all variations in Classical sets are primarily decorative, and even those that are often employ figuration and texture in subtle, strategic ways so as to foreground, elucidate and alter tonal and motivic elements of the theme. Indeed, decorative and interpretative functions can coexist. Conversely, some variations in Romantic sets are unapologetically decorative: their figuration fails to shed new light on their

Journal

Music AnalysisWiley

Published: Mar 1, 2012

References