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Thirtythree Variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli for piano (D major) op. 120

Listening samples
Thema. Vivace (205 kB)
Var. I. Alla marcia maestoso (233 kB)
Var. II. Poco allegro (228 kB)
Var. III. L'istesso tempo (279 kB)
Var. IV. Un poco più vivace (214 kB)
Var. V. Allegro vivace (243 kB)
Var. VI. Allegro ma non troppo e serioso (365 kB)
Var. VII. Un poco più allegro (270 kB)
Var. XIII. Poco vivace (365 kB)
Var. IX. Allegro pesante e risoluto (365 kB)
Var. X. Presto (140 kB)
Var. XI. Allegretto (307 kB)
Var. XII. Un poco più moto (253 kB)
Var. XIII. Vivace (270 kB)
Var. XIV. Grave e maestoso (365 kB)
Var. XV. Presto scherzando (158 kB)
Var. XVI. Allegro (242 kB)
Var. XVII (242 kB)
Var. XVIII. Poco moderato (365 kB)
Var. XIX. Presto (205 kB)
Var. XX. Andante (365 kB)
Var. XXI. Allegro con brio (317 kB)
Var. XXII. Allegro molto (alla "Notte e giorno faticar" di Mozart) (205 kB)
Var. XXIII. Allegro assai (205 kB)
Var. XXIV. Fughetta. Andante (365 kB)
Var. XXV. Allegro (214 kB)
Var. XXVI (365 kB)
Var. XXVII. Vivace (224 kB)
Var. XXVIII. Allegro (233 kB)
Var. XXIX. Adagio ma non troppo (365 kB)
Var. XXX. Andante, sempre cantabile (365 kB)
Var. XXXI. Largo molto, espressivo (365 kB)
Var. XXXII. Fuga. Allegro - Poco adagio (365 kB)
Var. XXXIII. Tempo di minuetto moderato (365 kB)

Composition
1819 to March-April 1823
Dedicated to Antonie Brentano

The Diabelli Variations is Beethoven's last major piano piece and his most extensive set of variations. He started work on it in 1819 but interrupted it for the Missa solemnis and his last three piano sonatas, only resuming work in early 1823.

The waltz theme was written by publisher and composer Anton Diabelli. Beethoven derogatively called it a 'Schusterfleck' (cobbler's patch), meaning a simple pattern that was easy to sequence. On the other hand, its simplicity offered more scope for variation, which finally proved an advantage. One year after publishing Beethoven's 33 Variations as a separate piece, Diabelli issued a collection of 50 variations on the same waltz in early June 1824. For the new collection, ordered alphabetically by name, Diabelli asked 50 Austrian composers, particularly from Vienna, to contribute to the collection. Among them were Czerny, Schubert, Liszt, Hummel and Beethoven's patron Archduke Rudolph. On the title page he called the authors a 'National Artists' Association'. Beethoven was quite enraged about this publication, feeling that it lessened the value of his own piece.

In early May 1823 Beethoven asked his former student Ferdinand Ries to find an English publisher for op. 120. However, it was not until July that he sent Ries an engraver's copy. A planned English edition of op. 120 by T. Boosey & Co. never materialized. The copy arrived in London too late as the piece had already appeared in Vienna and an English edition made no sense from a commercial standpoint. (J.R.)

Music manuscripts
Skizzen, HCB BSk 1/49
Skizzen, HCB Mh 60
Autograph, Fragment, op. 120, Nr. 31
Autograph, op. 120 Autograph with sound
Überprüfte Abschrift, op. 120

First editions
Titelauflage, op. 120, 1-33, Cappi und Diabelli, 1380
Titelauflage, op. 120, 1-33, Cappi und Diabelli, 1380; Teilscan
Titelauflage, op. 120, 1-33, Cappi und Diabelli, 1380, mit handschriftlichen Eintragungen Beethovens
Titelauflage, op. 120, 1-33, Diabelli, 1380; Teilscan
Titelauflage, op. 120, 1-33, Diabelli, 1380; Teilscan

Scores
Bibliographic data in library catalogue

Written documents
Brief an Carl Friedrich Peters in Leipzig, Wien, 5. Juni 1822
Brief an Anton Diabelli, Wien, Anfang November 1822
Brief an Anton Diabelli, Wien, Januar/Februar 1823
Billet an Anton Diabelli in Wien, Hetzendorf, zwischen dem 3. und 27. Juni 1823
Brief an Ferdinand Ries in London, Baden, 5. September 1823
Brief an Anton Diabelli, Wien, um den 20. Juli 1825

Pictures
Antonie Brentano (1780-1869) mit ihren Kindern Georg und Fanny - Pastellbild von Nikolaus Lauer, 1809
Antonie Brentano (1780-1869) - Mezzotinto nach einem Gemälde von Joseph Karl Stieler, 2. Hälfte 19. Jahrhundert

Literature
Bibliographic data in library catalogue

Manuscript sources in other libraries
Berlin: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Musikabteilung mit Mendelssohn-Archiv
Frankreich, Montauban: Musée Ingres
Frankreich, Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Musique, MS-77
Frankreich, Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Musique, MS-96

© Beethoven-Haus Bonn
E-Mail: bibliothek@beethoven-haus-bonn.de