Variation (music)

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Variation is a part of a composition that changes a theme melodically, harmonically, rhythmically or dynamically. A series of successive variations forms a "work of variations", a "set of variations", a "series of variations" or a "cycle of variations".


Basically, two types of variations can be distinguished:

  • Ostinato variation: The older type, in which the upper parts vary over a basso ostinato , developed in late Renaissance music and was expressed in the forms of Chaconne (or Ciacona) and Passacaglia .
  • The classical type, in which the theme is first introduced and all the variations then represent short individual movements , established itself in the Baroque and has been taken up by most composers ever since .

There are various possible variations in music. The tempo, dynamics, articulation, key, tone type, melody, rhythm, accompaniment, harmony and timbre can be changed. Resulting types of variation are z. B .:

  • Figural variation , also called ornamental variation : the theme is played around with musical figures.
  • Ostinato variation : the theme is retained as a bass part.
  • Cantus firmus variation : the theme appears as a cantus firmus .
  • Minore variation : the key is changed to minor .
  • Major variation : the key is changed to major .
  • Character variation: The variation is furthest away from the theme, changes its character by changing the tone type (major-minor) or the rhythm.

Chapter 22 of the novel “ Doctor Faustus ” by Thomas Mann brings, based on the “Philosophy of New Music” by Adorno, the idea of ​​the genuinely archaic of the musical form of variation. See Jürg Baur's “Archaic Variations” from 1997 (see below).

Well-known variation works (selection)

For orchestra

For solo instrument (s) and orchestra

For keyboard instruments

For other solo instruments

For singing voices

Individual evidence

  1. Gerald Drebes: Schütz, Monteverdi and the "Perfection of Music" - "God stands up" from the "Symphoniae sacrae" II (1647). In: Schütz yearbook . Jg. 14, 1992, pp. 25–55, here pp. 42–55, ( online ( memento of the original from March 3, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this note. ). @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /