Brahms Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel Op. 24

The Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24, is a work for solo piano written by Johannes Brahms in 1861. It consists of a set of twenty-five variations and a concluding fugue, all based on a theme from George Frideric Handel's Harpsichord Suite no. 1 in B-flat major, HWV 434. Biographer Jan Swafford describes the set as "perhaps the finest set of piano variations since Beethoven", adding, "Besides a masterful unfolding of ideas concluding with an exuberant fugue with a finish designed to bring down the house, the work is quintessentially Brahms in other ways: the filler of traditional forms with fresh energy and imagination; the historical eclectic able to start off with a gallant little tune of Handel's, Baroque ornaments and all, and integrate it seamlessly into his own voice, in a work of massive scope and dazzling variety." During the first meeting of Brahms and Richard Wagner in January 1863, Brahms performed his Variations. Despite the great differences between the two men in musical style and an underlying tension based on musical politics, Wagner complimented the work graciously, if not wholeheartedly, saying, "One sees what still may be done in the old forms when someone comes along who knows how to use them". The piece is often heard in a version that was arranged for orchestra by British composer and Brahms enthusiast Edmund Rubbra in 1938. 
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Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24



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