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)
- La Follia di Spagna - 26 variations for orchestra (1815) by Antonio Salieri
- Variations on a Theme by Haydn op.56a (1874) by Johannes Brahms
- Symphonic Variations op. 77 (1877) by Antonín Dvořák
- Enigma Variations (1899) by Edward Elgar
- Hiller Variations (1907) and Mozart Variations (1914) by Max Reger
- Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1919) by Ralph Vaughan Williams
- Variations on a Russian Folk Song (1922) by Paul Graener
- Variations for orchestra op. 31 (1926–1928) by Arnold Schönberg
- Boléro (1928) by Maurice Ravel
- Metamorphoseon Modi XII (1930) by Ottorino Respighi
- Variations on a hussar song for orchestra (1931) by Franz Schmidt
- The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946) by Benjamin Britten
- Paganini Variations (1947) by Boris Blacher
For solo instrument (s) and orchestra
- Variations for piano and orchestra on a theme from "The Craftsmen Festival" op. 115 (1815) by Johann Nepomuk Hummel
- Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" from Mozart's Don Giovanni, op. 2 (1827) by Frederic Chopin
- Rococo Variations for Violoncello and Orchestra (1877) by Peter Tchaikovsky
- Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra (1885) by César Franck
- Don Quixote, Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character, Op. 35 (1897) for violoncello, viola and orchestra by Richard Strauss
- Variations on a children's song ( Tomorrow comes Santa Claus ) for piano and orchestra (1914) op.25 by Ernst von Dohnanyi
- Concert Variations on a Theme by Beethoven for piano (left hand alone) with orchestra accompaniment (1923) by Franz Schmidt
- Variations on I Got Rhythm for piano and orchestra (1934) by George Gershwin
- Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini for piano and orchestra (1934) by Sergei Rachmaninoff
- Paganini variations for piano and orchestra by Witold Lutosławski (1941/78; also original version for 2 pianos)
For keyboard instruments
- "I went to spat once, 31 times changed by Mr. JLH" by Hans Leo Hassler
- Variations on “My young life has an end” by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck
- Variations on the "Harmonious Blacksmith" from Suite No. 5 HWV 430 (1720) by Georg Friedrich Handel
- " Goldberg Variations " (1741) by Johann Sebastian Bach
- Andante with variations in F minor Hob. XVII / 6 (1793) by Joseph Haydn
- Eroica Variations (1802), Variations WoO 80 (1806) and Diabelli Variations op.120 (1823) by Ludwig van Beethoven
- Variations on the theme “Une fièvre brûlante” from the opera Richard Cœur de Lion by Ludwig van Beethoven
- Abegg Variations op. 1 by Robert Schumann
- Symphonic Etudes op.13 (1834) by Robert Schumann
- Variations sérieuses (1842) by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
- La Campanella (1851) and Variations on Weeping, Lamenting, Worrying, Zagen (1862/3), piano and organ version by Franz Liszt
- Variations on a Theme by Handel op. 24 (1862) and Variations on a Theme by Paganini (two series) op. 35 (1866) by Johannes Brahms
- Variations on a Theme by Chopin, op. 22 (1903) by Sergei Rachmaninoff
- Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Johann Sebastian Bach Op. 81 (1904) by Max Reger
- Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Georg Philipp Telemann op. 134 (1914) by Max Reger
- Variations on a theme from Carmen (~ 1920) by Wladimir Horowitz
- Variations on a Theme by Corelli, op. 42 (1931) by Sergei Rachmaninoff
- Variations for piano Op. 27, (1935–1936), in three sentences by Anton Webern
- Variations on a Recitative for Organ op. 40 (in D) (1941) by Arnold Schönberg
- The People United Will Never Be Defeated, 36 Variations (1975) Frederic Rzewski
For other solo instruments
- Chaconne from Partita No. 2 for solo violin BWV 1004 by Johann Sebastian Bach
- Variations in G major on "La bergère Célimène" KV 359 (1781) for violin and piano by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- 6 variations in G major on "Hélas, j'ai perdu mon amant" KV 360 (1781) for violin and piano by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- 7 variations in E flat major for violoncello and piano on WA Mozart's aria from the Magic Flute "For men who feel love" WoO 46 by Ludwig van Beethoven
- Piano Trio No. 11 (Variations on “I am the Tailor Kakadu '” by Wenzel Müller) (1803) op. 121a by Ludwig van Beethoven
- Deux Thèmes Variés et Rondo op.38 (1809) for two guitars by Ferdinando Carulli
- Variations on a Folia d'Espagne op. 45 by Mauro Giuliani
- Capriccio 24 in A minor from 24 Capricci op.1 for solo violin by Niccolò Paganini
- Etude with 60 variations on the song Baracubà for violin and guitar op.14 by Niccolo Paganini
- Introduction and variations in E minor on the song “Trockne Blumen” D 802 for flute and piano by Franz Schubert
- Variations on a Theme by Mozart op. 9 for guitar by Fernando Sor
- Variations on "Nel cor più non mi sento" op. 16 for guitar by Fernando Sor
- Corelli variations for violin by Henri Vieuxtemps alone
- Theme original varie op.15 (1854) for violin alone by Henryk Wieniawski
- Variations et Finale ... sur un motif favori de la Famille Suisse de Weigl op. 2 by Napoleon Coste
- Variaciones sobre un Tema de Tárrega by Agustín Barrios
- Variaciones y Fughetta sobre un Tema de Cabezón (1948) by Manuel Ponce
- Variations on a Theme by Sor by Miguel Llobet
For singing voices
- "Zefiro torna" by Claudio Monteverdi ( Chaconne , 9th Madrigal Book, SV 251)
- "Es ist Gott auf" by Heinrich Schütz (SWV 356, final part, quoted / competes with Monteverdi's "Zefiro torna")
- 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. ).