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Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn & Mozart: Variations

Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn & Mozart: Variations

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Beethoven wrote in his diary that he wanted “to show the British what a treasure they have in God Save the King”, a reference to his set of variations on the national anthem, composed in 1803. Sarah Beth Briggs recorded the virtuoso set precisely one month before the passing of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022, and the recording heralds the coronation of King Charles III in May 2023. The lesser-known Variations on an Original Theme in F major (1802) represent Beethoven the revolutionary. Uniquely, each variation was written in a different key which would have jarred the ears of the composer’s contemporaries. Sarah Beth Briggs’ collection of Variations underlines a lineage of the genre through the classical and Romantic eras. Opening the program is 9 Variations on a Minuet by Duport by Mozart, whom Beethoven greatly admired. The work takes a theme by cellist Jean-Pierre Duport, chamber music director of the court of the Prussian King, Friedrich Wilhelm II, from whom the composer hoped to gain favor. Mendelssohn’s Variations Serieuses was written as a tribute to Beethoven, and was included in an album of works that raised funds for the now famous bronze statue of Beethoven in Bonn. Mendelssohn’s near contemporary Brahms paid tribute to his troubled friend Robert Schumann, using a melody from Bunte Blätter (“Colorful Leaves”) in his poignant Variations on a Theme by Schumann.


Briggs’ execution is fluidly graceful and well-modulated. She approaches this repertoire with a studied care that betrays a love for the period and composers.

-- Wild Mercury Rhythm

All nine of Mozart’s Variations on a Theme by Jean-Pierre Duport, K 573 are quite delicate, sounding here almost as if they were played on a toy piano. Only the finale includes authoritative sounds. Beethoven’s 7 Variations on `God Save the King’ is sturdier; I especially enjoy the lively, witty, chordal IV. Also included is Beethoven’s 6 Variations on an Original Theme. In Variations Serieuses, Mendelssohn managed to write 17 imaginative ones. That number only slightly outdoes Brahms, who came up with 16 Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann. Lovely music, elegant playing.

-- American Record Guide

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Avie Records
    • UPC/Barcode: 822252256925
    • Item Number: AV2569