I had my first class of a ten week course on opera with my friend David Nice on Monday. The first five weeks are devoted to Beethoven’s only opera(s) – Leonore (1805) and its subsequent revision/reincarnation as what we know today as Fidelio (1814). It is a work that is definitely in my top ten list and I have been privileged to see several remarkable performances of it.
Now I may be wrong on this, and I hope David will correct me if I am, but though Beethoven revered Mozart he was not all that fond of his operas. However he did compose variations on music from Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Zauberflöte. The Nozze variation was composed in 1793 when Beethoven was 22 years old and first living in Vienna. It is dedicated to Elenore von Breuning, one of his students, with whom, it is said, he was infatuated. The “tendresse” was not returned – as often seemed to be the case with poor Ludwig. However they were to remain friends.
Rather unusually Beethoven introduces the original theme – Figaro’s Act I aria Se vuol ballare – picked out in pizzicato by the violin with a very unassuming accompaniment by the piano. However what follows in the 12 variations is a challenge for both violinist and pianist.
In writing about the piece in 1794 Beethoven said:
‘I should never have written down this kind of piece, had I not already noticed fairly often how some people in Vienna after hearing me extemporize of an evening would note down on the following day several peculiarities of my style and palm them off with pride as their own. Well, as I foresaw that their pieces would soon be published, I resolved to forestall these people’.
The word for January 13th is:
Variation /ˌverēˈāSH(ə)n/: [noun]
1.1 A change or difference in condition, amount, or level, typically with certain limits.
1.2 A different or distinct form or version of something.
Late Middle English (denoting variance or conflict): from Old French, or from Latin variatio(n- ), from the verb variare.