Theme and Variations Music Recordings

The word 'variation' in music refers to the process of repeating musical material in an altered form. The alteration can involve either melodic, rhythmic, harmonic, or timbric aspects. In a broader sense, the use of variations as a way of generating musical discourse has resulted in a number of forms or genres. The passacaglia and chaconne, for example, are variation forms. The most popular variation form is, however, the 'theme and variations'. A fundamental musical idea is stated (with or without an introduction) and then recurs a number of times, altered in its melodic shape, instrumentation, meter, rhythm, accompaniment, or some other aspect. Usually the variations will have the same structure and length as the original theme (which may be considered a legacy from the application of the variation technique to court dances). The first theme/variations works emerged in the 16th century, under the form of divisions (in which a melody was stated in long notes, and then subsequently divided in a progressive fashion, thus demanding some level of dexterity of the player). The basic idea of stating the variations in a progressive fashion has been a constant through the history of the Variation forms, arguably because it creates a sense of form and musical direction.

Title Composer Instrument Period Ratings
6 National Airs with Variations, Op.105 Ludwig van Beethoven Solo Instrument and Piano Romantic
6 Variations in F major, Op. 34 Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Romantic
7 Variations on 'Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen', WoO 46 Ludwig van Beethoven Cello Classical
8 Variations on "Ein Weib ist das herrlichste Ding", K.613 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Piano Classical
10 Variations on 'La stessa, la stessissima' by Salieri, WoO 73 Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Classical
12 Variations on a French Nursery Theme K 265/300e Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Piano Classical
12 Variations on 'Follies of Spain', H. 263 Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Harpsichord Classical
32 Variations in Cm, WoO 80 Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Romantic
32 Variations in Cm, WoO 80 Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Romantic
Andante and Variations, Op.83a Felix Mendelssohn Piano 4 hands Classical
Andante with variations in Fm, Hob. XVII:6 Franz Joseph Haydn Piano Classical
Aria variata in A minor, BWV 989 Johann Sebastian Bach Piano Baroque
Diabelli Variations, op. 120 Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Romantic
Enigma variations, Op. 36 Edward Elgar Orchestra Late 19th century
Flower Piece, Op. 19 Robert Schumann Piano Romantic
Goldberg Variations, BWV. 988 Johann Sebastian Bach Piano Baroque
Goldberg Variations, BWV. 988 Johann Sebastian Bach Piano Baroque
Introduction and Variations, D. 802 Franz Schubert Flute Romantic
Introduction and Variations on a Theme by Mozart, Op. 9 Fernando Sor Guitar Romantic
'Nimrod', no. 9 from 'Enigma' variations, Op. 36 Edward Elgar Orchestra Late 19th century