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Music in the Making

Themes And Variations

Listen to how these composers rework and remix classic themes.



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On this week’s episode of Music in the Making, we’re listening to some famous themes and all of their variations!

Bach’s Chaconne from his Partita for Violin No. 2

Music in this episode:

Timothy Kramer – Mimetic Variations (1998)
AURA: Amanda Dusold, oboe; Kim Lamb, oboe; Bryan Conger, clarinet; Jessica Smith, clarinet; Matt Menger, horn; Jeff Taylor, horn; Frank Chambers, bassoon; Kristilyn Woods, bassoon
Moores Opera House

Our first piece takes inspiration from Harmoniemusik, a type of wind ensemble from the 18th century. In a similar vein, Kramer’s composition mimics this early style of repertoire with elegant and clear rhythmic and melodic structures. This main theme is then gradually transformed as the piece continues onward.

Johann Sebastian Bach – Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004 (1717-1720)
Eric Halen, violin
Duncan Recital Hall

The second selection is one of the most famous theme and variations in classical repertoire (especially for violinists). While this theme is made up of a series of chords, rather than a melody, Bach pushes the limits of the violin as he creates endless ways for the instrument to articulate these chords throughout the work. While famous for the technical difficulty that it requires from the player, it is also admired for the range of emotions encompassed by the piece.

Sergei Rachmaninoff – Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (1934)
Moores School Symphony Orchestra; Kenneth Broberg, piano; Franz Anton Krager, conductor
Moores Opera House

Our last piece is another great example of a theme and variations in the violin repertoire. Paganini’s Solo Violin Caprice No. 24 is famous both for it’s technical difficulty and the overall “catchy” nature of the opening theme. Rachmaninoff must have agreed with this statement, because he took this same theme and created his own set of 24 variations from it, composed for orchestra and solo piano.

This episode originally aired Sunday, October 18th, 2015. Catch Music in the Making every Sunday at 7:06 PM on Classical 91.7.