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Diabelli - Variation 1

The March

Diabelli score Var 1

 

Beethoven immediately switches from the 3/4 waltz rhythm to 4/4 – an unusual step that makes it crystal clear that he will not be beholden to Diabelli’s intentions. While he began composing these variations in 1819, he had only completed 23 of the final 33 before he laid them aside for several years, only returning to them in 1823. This 1st variation is one of those composed at the later date but inserted at the very beginning of the set, obviously a deliberate decision. So why a march and why here? A great deal has been made of the final, 33rd variation and its strong resemblance (especially at the very end, in the coda) to the last movement Beethoven’s final piano sonata Op. 111, composed the year before he finished the Diabelli set. At the very end of the variation, he seems to be consciously quoting himself. It has occurred to me that Beethoven’s very first published piece was a set of variations on a march by Dressler. Perhaps this was also a conscious decision? Pure speculation on my part!

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