Mozart - Complete Piano Variations / K.265, KV.398, KV.354 .. (reference recording: Walter Chodack)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) - Complete Variations

I.Six variations sur l’air ‘’Salve tu Domine’’ KV 398
extrait de l’opéra ‘’Les Philosophes imaginaires’’ de Paisiello (00:00)
II.Neuf variations sur un menuet de Duport KV 573 (06:46)
III.Douze variations sur la romance ‘’Je suis Lindor’’ KV 354
extrait du ‘’Berbier de Séville’’ d’Antoine-Laurent Baudron (21:10)
IV.Douze variations sur la chanson française ‘’La belle Françoise’’ KV 353 (39:05)
V.Neuf variations sur l’ariette ‘’Lison dormait’’ KV264
extrait de l’opéra-comique ‘’Julie’’ de Dezède (53:01)

VI.Six variations sur un Allegretto KV 54 (1:09:08)
VII.Huit variations sur ‘’Ein Weib ist das herrlichste Ding’’ KV 613 (1:16:33)
extrait du singspiel ‘’Der dumme Gärtner’’ de Schack ou Gerl
VIII.Douze variations sur ‘’Ah, vous dirai-je maman’’ KV 265 (1:33:03)
IX.Dix variations sur l’ariette ‘’Unser dummer Pöbel meint’’ KV 455 (1:47:32)
extrait des Pèlerins de la Mecque
X.Huit variations sur l’air ‘’Come un agnello’’ KV 460 (2:01:37)
XI.Six variations sur un thème du Quintette avec clarinette KV581 (2:15:16)

XII.Huit variations sur le chant hollandais KV 24
‘’Laat ons juichen, Batavieren’’ de Graaf (2:25:56)
XIII.Huit variations sur le choeur ‘’Dieu d’amour’’ KV 352
extrait de l’opéra-comique ‘’Les Mariages Samnites’’ de Grétry (2:32:11)
XIV.Douze variations sur un menuet de Johann Christian Fischer KV 179 (2:45:27)
XV.Six variations sur ‘’Mio caro Adone’’ KV 180
extrait de l’opéra ‘’La fiera di Venizia’’ de Salieri (3:06:26)
XVI.Sept variations sur le chant hollandais ‘’Willem von Nassau’’ KV 25 (3:16:22)
XVII.Douze variations sur un allegretto KV 500 (3:23:08)

Piano : Walter Chodack
Stéréo recording in 1989, at Paris
New Mastering in 2018 by AB for CMRR

The child, the young man, the man alone is seated at the keyboard. Gathered around the instrument, Society expects him to entertain, to please it. The Musician must give proof of his talent as a virtuoso and, if possible, demonstrate at the same time that he also possesses talent as an improviser, but only within a given framework, always observing the courtesies by never imposing himself beyond measure, giving pleasure to everyone by embellishing and varying a familiar tune - someone else’s tune. He is not expected do have an idea of his own ; the academic exercise consists in appropriating another musician’s idea and exploiting it according to well defined canons.

From the time he began to celebrate the music of other composers in his variations, Mozart’s fifteen-odd sets of variations present us with a broad panorama of the most popular repertoire among European audiences and of their musical preferences, because only familiar and recognisable themes and tunes were used. National celebrations in the Netherlands, with themes taken from the anniversary festival music for William of Nassau, and popular Dutch music for K24 and K25 ; French songs (Ah vous dirai-je, maman K265 ; La Belle Françoise K353 ; Lison dormait K264 ; Je suis Lindor K354). And numerous composers in vogue at the time : Gluck K555, Grétry K352, Duport K573, Fischer K179, Salieri K180, Sarti K460, Paisiello K398, but so few on his own themes K500, K581.

Variations are a game, a game of memory involving the remembering of the theme and of the tune in its exploitation in which it is still recognized, but transformed in the course of the series (which contains six, never fewer, to twelve variations). A game of virtuosity, too, in inventing original ideas and ornaments around the given theme ; a game of velocity in all the transformations authorized by the conventions (semiquavers, demisemiquavers, triplets and trills) ; and a game of changing the mood by altering the tempi, and the obligatory variation in a minor key. In this sense variations, often composed on the spur of the moment on a specific occasion, represent a veritable work of improvisation. But that, too, is part of the pleasure of the game.

Although Mozart did not attain to the level of appropriation-transformation in the genre that Beethoven was to achieve in the Diabelli Variations - which represent an extreme degree of sophistication and genius in this precise form and its transfiguration - Mozart’s piano variations must not be regarded as a minor genre in his output. Quite the contrary, they bear witness to the spontaneity of his inspiration when they were the outcome of a playful investigation and as such they teach us a great deal about the composer. The full range of the freedom of Mozart’s creative procedure is laid before us, in which is all contained the development of a genre : issuing from the most galant of traditions, the variation escapes from its confined, conventional acceptation and is raised to a new level of maturity. Brigitte Massin

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart PLAYLIST (reference recordings)

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