Theme and Variations – Paganini

Announcing our theme for the 4th Quarter: Theme and Variations!

This quarter we will be listening to several Theme and Variations compositions, learning to play a few, and writing our own.

One of the most famous themes is by Niccolo Paganini.  He wrote variations on his own theme and then Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, Andrew Lloyd Webber and many others borrowed his theme and wrote variations on it as well.

Here is master violinist Itzhak Perlman playing Paganini’s original composition, Caprice No. 24.  Start at 4:05 or enjoy two other Paganini Caprices at the beginning of the recording.

Here you can listen to Rachmaninoff performing his own Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. First the theme and first 12 variations followed by variations 13-18 and varations 19-24.

Russian pianist Emil Gilels performs Brahm’s Paganini Variations.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Variations has a jazzy, edgy modern sound.  Wikipedia and the cover of my own recording tell the story about how the piece came to be – a result of a bet Andrew lost with his brother, cellist Julian Webber.  This video shows just part of the entire Variations composition.

I’ve been having a lot of fun going through the Wikipedia list of compositions and transcriptions based on Paganini’s simple yet incredibly popular theme.  This post would be far too long if I share all the YouTube videos I found, but you can do some searching yourself!

What will the theme for your Theme and Variations be?  Will you use Paganini’s theme, or something of your own?